Ceres-Negros FC came from behind to clinch its opening win in the Copa Paulino Alcantara when it downed Stallion Laguna 2-1 last September 19 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. Goals from Blake Powell and Manny overtuned a first half strike from Laguna’s Jess Melliza.
Both squads started well which led to an entertaining midfield battle from both squads. Ceres-Negros were well disciplined on all fronts while Stallion were looking to pounce on the league champions’ mistakes which allowed both teams some early half chances in the match.
The action picked up late in the first half when Ott tried to lift the ball over a rushing Benito Rosalia but the keeper does enough to tap the danger away. It was Roland Muller’s turn minutes later in the 39th when a well played free kick routine forced the keeper to punch out a dangerous cross.
Stallion Laguna would get the first crack on goal when Carlo Polli’s deflected pass fell in the lap of Fitch Arboleda who made no mistake to shoot past the keeper to put Laguna ahead at the 40th minute.
Ceres would try to equalize near the halftime but Powell’s attempt in the corner edge of the box was off target. The visitors would go into the break leading 1-0.
The back-to-back champions pushed the tempo in the second half with the midfield locking in to dissect the Stallion defense. Omid Nazari, Ott, and Martin Steuble worked well to systematically test the defensive approach of Laguna.
The team’s persistence were eventually rewarded when Powell shot from an impossible angle to beat the rushing keeper and score the equalizer for the busmen in the 56th minute. Mike Ott and Curt Dizon were the major threats minutes creating plenty of half chances for the Negros squad.
The hosts were eager to get a go ahead goal but chances from Steuble and Ceres debutant Alfe Sebuha were all off target midway in the second half. Stallion Laguna had another free kick in the 79th but Kyeong-Jun’s attempt forced Muller into another fine save.
The Busmen went ahead in the with a beautiful team goal in the 84th minute. Joshua Dutosme released Dizon on the left flank who then whipped the ball towards center to Ott who smashed the ball to the bottom corner.
Stallion was dangerous in the remaining minutes after producing quick counterattacks but the backline led by Paul Mulders and Amani Aguinaldo proved equal to the threats. Ceres went on to get the three points and their first victory after four minutes of injury time.
“Were happy with the result,” said assistan coach Ian Treyes. “We had our chances in the first half but we missed it. Played better in the second and scored some goal. Hopefully we can continue this way to our last game of the elimination. Everyone is willing to take the last two games so that we can qualify to the semifinal,” he added.
“It was good for the team to bounce back after two losses. It was a good job. Not a good start with 1-0 down but I think the mentality was there and everybody fought for it. In the end, getting out with the win was good for the team,” said Man of the match Manny Ott.
Ceres-Negros will play their final group match against the Davao Aguilas Saturday afternoon where they will need a win to have a chance at making it to the knockout stages. Kickoff will be at 4pm.