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Ceres-Negros suffers crucial defeat against resurgent Felda United

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Ceres-Negros now have plenty of work to do if they are to qualify for the ASEAN zonal semifinals of the 2017 AFC Cup, after their Malaysian counterparts Felda United handed them their first loss in the tournament in the contest that finished 3-0, Tuesday afternoon at the Shah Alam Stadium in Malaysia.

With two games left in the group stage, Ceres-Negros now have the same points tally as Felda United at five points, but are technically behind as the Malaysian club have the better head-to-head record. They began the day on top of the four-team group.

No matter what happens in the Tampines-Ha Noi game that is taking place as of this writing, Ceres-Negros will be at least in a tie for second place of Group G, which makes qualifying tedious heading into the final two matchdays. Only the top team in the group is guaranteed qualification into the zonal semis, with the best runner-up among the three ASEAN groups set to join them.

Initially, Ceres-Negros looked the better of the two teams. They were eager to attack the hosts early on and didn’t take long to create a chance in the fifth minute of the game. Iain Ramsay drilled in a good cross to meet Fernando Rodriguez in the air, but the forward wasn’t able to guide the ball on target.

It was a difficult shot to make, but it would had been nice for Ceres-Negros if Rodriguez had executed it well, as the next chance of the game on the other side of the pitch changed the tide of the game altogether.

The minute after Ceres-Negros had a go on goal, Felda United opened the scoring through a wonderful effort by Muhammad Syahid. Set up by Muhammad Hadin Azman around 25 yards away from goal, the year-old midfielder launched the ball into the top corner that left Ceres-Negros goalkeeper Roland Müller helpless.

The hosts, who entered Matchday Four as the bottom team in Group G, nearly doubled their advantage just two minutes after taking the lead. Zah Rahan Krangar got in behind the puzzled Ceres-Negros defense to chase the ball, but Müller did well to palm the ball away and keep the margin to just a goal.

It would have been difficult for Ceres-Negros had they went two goals behind so early in the game, but with the way Felda showed up in the first half, the Bacolod-based team may have been relieved that their opponents’ advantage did not increase.

The away side had limited efforts to test Felda keeper Mohd Farizal, whose only save in the first 45 minutes came from Rodriguez’s decent shot from outside the box 24 minutes after kickoff. The Spanish striker also had a terrible miss to rue in the 31st minute, as he failed to steer the ball into the back of the net despite hitting it only from a few yards away.

Gaston Cellerino and Krangar also flubbed two big chances in the 28th and 42nd minute respectively. Both attackers had the beatings of the former Philippines international goalkeeper but also managed to scuff their attempts wide to the left of the goal.

As for the hosts, a 1-0 lead at the break was somewhat positive but only because they had the upper hand. The 2016 Malaysian Super League runners-up knew they deserved to be at least two goals in front at the interval.

As in the first half, Ceres-Negros saw more of the ball in the opening exchanges of the second period. This time around, Risto Vidakovic’s team showed more urgency to break down the defense, which created more chances. Unfortunately for them, none of those were converted to an equalizer.

In the 53rd minute, Ramsay whipped the ball towards the goal, which forced Farizal to tip the ball over the frame of the goal. The resulting corner led to a Carli de Murga header soft enough for the Felda keeper to collect. Four minutes after, a promising move from OJ Porteria inside the Felda box caused a scramble inside the box but the ball went to Farizal, who gathered it from a deflection off Mootaz Jounaidi.

Unable to peg the hosts back, Ceres-Negros paid the price as the Malaysians found the back of the net once again in the 65th minute. Norshahrul’s half-cleared cross reache,d Hadin Azman who smashed the ball clinically to double Felda United’s lead.

Thirteen minutes before full time, Ceres gave away a cheap third goal to the home team, as Müller’s inability to hold the ball from a corner allowed Fazrul Hazli to bundle in the ball for what was the easiest goal of the bunch.

The Filipinos tried to press for a consolation goal to at least improve their goal difference, but they left the Shah Alam Stadium empty-handed.

Ceres-Negros will look to bounce back when they return to action on Wednesday, April 19, against Ha Noi FC in front of a passionate Negrense crowd at the Panaad Park and Stadium.

Photo from the-AFC.com

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AFC Cup

Istiklol ends Ceres-Negros’ historic AFC Cup run in Panaad stalemate

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All sporting journeys must end in either glory or defeat. In the case of Ceres-Negros Football Club, a shot at continental silverware has run its course, as they drew 1-1 against FC Istiklol of Tajikistan.

The Busmen exit the 2017 AFC Cup with an aggregate score of 1-5 against the 2015 finalists, although that should not diminish the fantastic achievement made by the home side in getting this far in the competition.

Down 0-4 after the first leg, Ceres had no choice but to go all guns blazing in order to pull off another magical night at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod. Istiklol were content to sit deep and spring a counterattack, which they did very well.

Time was gold for the home side, and it took the Busmen 33 minutes to get a goal back. Istiklol’s defense repelled anything Ceres threw at it in open play. It took a Manny Ott corner kick to breach the away club’s defense, as an alert Manuel Herrera headed the ball into the Istiklol net.

Rather than be stunned, the goal seemed to awaken Istiklol from their slumber. The Crowns shifted gears and would have scored sooner if not for some fine saves from Ceres goalie Roland Muller. Unfortunately, Ceres’ defense was caught ball watching, as an unmarked Dmitry Barkov shot past Muller to level the scores in first half stoppage time.

If Ceres had a mountain to climb before the game, then they had to fly to the moon in the second half. But that flight did not take off soon enough, as striker Fernando Rodriguez squandered a big chance with the goal at his mercy after the restart.

Ultimately, no miracle happened. Istiklol goalkeeper Nikola Stosic was a brick wall at the heart of Istiklol’s defense.

Bienvenido Maranon and Iain Ramsay tried their luck to no avail. Not even Artem Baranovskyi’s 69th minute red card for booting Kevin Ingreso on the face can signal a comeback.

Ceres have been eliminated in the inter-zonal semi-finals with a 1-1 draw and a 1-5 aggregate loss to Istiklol, but the Southeast Asian champions have much to be proud of in their magical run.


Ceres XI: Muller (GK), Kawase, Herrera, Ingreso, Marañon, Ott, Rodriguez, Porteria, Ramsay, Schrock, De Murga ©

Istiklol XI: Stosic (GK), Asrorov, Mawutor, Baranovskyi, Jahongir, Barkov, Fathuloev ©, Nazarov, Juraboev, Stetsenko, Dzhalilov

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Magical night in Bacolod as Ceres-Negros sinks Home, advances to next AFC Cup round

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Ceres-Negros Football Club is officially South East Asia’s standard bearer in the 2017 AFC Cup

Down 1-2 after last week’s defeat in Singapore, Ceres retaliated in impressive fashion as they prevailed 2-0 against S.League side Home United at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod. After two games, Ceres go through with a 3-2 victory on aggregate.

The home side needed just two minutes to break the deadlock. OJ Porteria got his name on the scoresheet when he converted a cross from the left flank with a one-touch finish. The Filipino-American’s goal set the tone for the Busmen’s dominant first-half showing.

Not far off the first goal, Ceres were awarded a penalty in the 12th minute due to a handball in the Home United box. Up stepped Fernando Rodriguez, who had converted the spot-kick that sealed Ceres’ ticket for this round against Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’Zim. Unfortunately, the Spaniard skied his attempt, which gave the visitors the reprieve they needed.

It turned out to be a frustrating evening for Rodriguez, as he was denied a goal once again, this time by Home goalie Hassan Sunny.

In contrast, Home finally composed themselves midway through the period. The visitors had a free kick hit the crossbar, while Global Cebu Football Club’s tormentor Stipe Plazibat was denied an easy goal by the rushing Roland Muller.

Negros sought another goal before the break as Iain Ramsay and Manuel Lopez tried their luck against Hassan to no avail.

Nonetheless, Ceres finally reaped their rewards after Porteria was brought down at the edge of the Home box. Up stepped Manny Ott, who unleashed a fantastic free kick to double Ceres’ cushion in the 42nd minute.

With a 2-0 halftime cushion, Ceres players played a more composed game after the break. The all-out attack paved way for a more balanced play by the Busmen. Home played with more initiative but Negros’ defense, marshalled by Muller, held their forwards at bay.

Ceres’ failure to add another goal contributed to a tense finale to the game. Ramsar and Bienvenido Marano had their chances, although no cigar was lit. Home sought the game-changing goal to force extra time, yet Ceres repelled them time and time again.

It was Ceres’ destiny to march on, and they did so at Home’s expense with a 2-0 result and an aggregate score of 3-2.

Up next for Ceres are Tajikistan club FC Istiklol, with the first leg to be played on August 22 at the Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe. The second leg shall be played on September 12 at the Panaad.

Ceres-Negros XI: Muller (GK), Herrera, Ingreso, Ott, Rodriguez, Porteria, Ramsay, Schrock, De Murga, Christiaens, Steuble ©

Home United XI: Hassan (GK, C), Hariss, Afiq Y, Juma, Qaiyyim, Plazibat, Faris. R, Camara, K. Nizam, Izzdin, Adam.

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Late Harun strike leaves Ceres-Negros with work to do against Home United

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The Filipinos’ misery against Home United in Singapore continues, as the Protectors picked up a 2-1 win over Ceres-Negros in the first leg of the 2017 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final held on Wednesday evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium in central Singapore.

Luckily for them, the series has just reached the halfway point, giving the Busmen the opportunity strike back in their backyard at the Panaad Stadium in seven days time. Yet the defeat still stings given the circumstances that took place in the first 90 minutes of the ASEAN Zonal Final.

The last time the Negrenses were on the road in the AFC Cup, they were on the other side of the Causeway as they took home two vital away goals in Johor. They lost that game, 3-2, but a corresponding 2-1 win in Bacolod got them to this stage of the competition. Entering the game, they were looking to do something similar in the city state.

Albeit without seriously threatening, Ceres-Negros piled the pressure on the hosts. The visitors aimed to claim an early goal to unsettle their nerves. However, the tactic seemed to backfire when a clumsily conceded corner led to the breakthrough goal on the other side.

Not seeing much of the ball, the Ceres defense haphazardly gave away a corner in the eighth minute. It led to a penalty decision won by Stipe Plazibat, who fell to a challenge inside the area. The Croatian made no mistake from 12 yards to give his team the lead against the run of play.

The visitors grew stronger despite falling behind, continuing to control the tempo of the match. Their swashbuckling approach didn’t do them too much good, however, as they were exposed by the Singaporeans on the counter.

Near the midway point of the opening half, Home registered two good chances to expand their advantage. The first came from Adam Swandi, who was unfortunate to witness his header hit the woodwork. Teammate Khairul Nizam then forced Roland Mülller into a reflex save.

During that spell Ceres-Negros had luck on their side but it looked to have run out in the succeeding minutes. Two goals were disallowed by the officials — the first one for interference in play by Carli de Murga who was in an offside position. The other occasion saw Fernando Rodriguez’s goal ruled out after Iain Ramsay was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

In what could be considered an unfortunate first half for the Filipinos, a magical moment altered the mood of the match entirely. Martin Steuble’s ambitious hit from around 30 yards paid off right before the break. Suddenly, frowns on their faces turned upside down and the Jalan Besar Stadium fell silent save for a section of relieved Ceres supporters.

Come the opening stages of the first half, both teams lacked the fluidity they possessed before halftime. Perhaps the two sides were more eager to prevent each other from taking the lead instead of pushing each other to a goalfest. A testament to this stance was the fact that Müller and Home goalkeeper Hassan Sunny only had to save the ball once in the first 20 minutes.

Müller and the Ceres defense dodged a bullet when Nizam’s effort thumped the post instead of bulging the net. The same could be said on the other side or the field as Sunny stretched to keep Ramsay’s close-range effort away from his goal.

Gradually both teams’ desire to nick the third goal grew as time slowly wound down. There would be a third goal in the cagey affair, which went Home’s way six minutes before time. Hariss Harun, on loan from Johor Darul Takzim, did a revenge job of sorts for his parent club. The forward out-muscled Kevin Ingreso to fire from point-blank range before smashing in the rebound to the delight of the home fans.

Unlike fellow PFL team Global-Cebu, who had virtually no chance of changing the score when they fell to the Protectors more than two months ago, the Busmen still had time to have their say in the contest. The closest they got to restoring parity came in the 89th minute when Ingreso’s probing ball located Ramsay. The winger’s effort was deciphered by Sunny, who could have done without it as the former Melbourne City player was ruled offside anyway.

In the end, Ceres-Negros may have felt a little hard done by the result, but will still be relieved to take an away goal back to Bacolod. Come next week, Risto Vidaković’s lads will look to reverse the direction of the tie when they meet again. Having been in this situation before, the Busmen will be hoping that lightning will strike twice as they bank on a strong home support to guide them to the inter-zonal playoffs of the 2017 AFC Cup.

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Ceres-Negros leaves it late to sneak into ASEAN zone final

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Down 3-2 on aggregate, Ceres-Negros looked to bank on the combination of their solid home form and opponents’ JDT’s travel sickness in this season’s AFC Cup when the second leg of the ASEAN zone semifinal was due to be played at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.

And after 90 minutes of pulsating football, the Philippine club did just enough to finish the job by winning 2-1 against the Malaysian champions for them to advance into the ASEAN zone final by virtue of the away goals rule.

It looked as if the one-time AFC Cup winners and last season’s semifinalists will arrange a causeway zone final after they held the aggregate lead entering injury time. Yet it was not to be for the Malaysians as Fernando Rodriguez booked Ceres-Negros’ place in the zone final instead, through a marvelous penalty conversion to give Ceres-Negros a monumental victory on home soil.

Knowing that they needed to score at least more than their foes, Ceres-Negros got what they’re looking for when Kota Kawase put the Negrenses on the night and level on aggregate. The Japanese defender met Kevin Ingreso’s dead ball delivery nicely, allowing him to beat Johor’s Mohd Farizal. Prior to the breakthrough goal, the match lacked firepower as both teams banked on set pieces to test each other.

Six minutes before halftime, Ceres-Negros should have doubled their lead if not for Rodriguez missing a decent opportunity wide coming from a play that also involved Manny Ott and Bienve Marañon. It was the last dangerous moment in the first half as the Busmen from Bacolod managed to preserve a precarious one-goal lead and an away goals advantage on the tie.

Come the other side of the break, the visitors looked more dangerous with the ball. At this point, JDT needed a goal to save their campaign in the AFC Cup. The Malaysians persevered to grab an equalizer which they eventually found in the 65th minute. A clever through ball by Gonzalo Cabrera located Gabriel Guerra who raced past Super Herrera before tucking the ball into the bottom corner past the hapless Roland Müller in goal.

Time began to ran out for the Filipinos, who grew hungrier in pursuit of a crucial second goal which could just be enough to take them through past the zonal semifinal. Backed by rabid Negrense support, Ceres-Negros piled the pressure on Johor, a move that paid dividends right at the end.

Midway through the five additional minutes, Aidil Zafuan was adjudged to have fouled Rodriguez inside the box. The Spaniard calmly buried the penalty that brought joy to the home crowd. Chaos then descended after the conversion which saw Farizal sent off for violent conduct. The goalkeeper lost the plot and saw red for his unsportsmanlike behavior towards the end.

Playing with a man less, Johor almost found themselves 3-1 down but OJ Porteria’s close range goal was disallowed for offside. It mattered little in the end as the Busmen celebrated a huge victory against one of Southeast Asia’s giants.

“The players deserve it because they gave everything they had. It was not easy. We had a difficult group. All the teams are strong and good, even in the [zone] semifinals. We believe in victory from the first day. I think we deserve it,” Ceres-Negros coach Risto Vidakovic told after the match.

Ceres-Negros will be back on AFC Cup duty in August as they prepare to meet Singapore’s Home United who emerged victorious in the other zonal semifinal last night against the Philippines’ Global-Cebu.

Photo from the-AFC.com

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