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AFC Cup

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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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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AFC Cup

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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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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Late Plazibat brace condemns 10-men Global to AFC Cup exit

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Stipe Plazibat is a name which will haunt Global Cebu Football Club for years to come

The Croatian striker snatched a last-minute goal in the first leg encounter to help Home United Football Club secure a 2-2 draw at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

Tonight, though, Plazibat enacted further damage to Global as he scored twice in the last six minutes of the match to eliminate the Philippines Football League side tonight at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore as Home prevailed 3-2.

“I’m not disappointed with the performance of the players,” shared Global coach Marjo Allado.

It was a painful result for Global considering the last United Football League champions drew first blood. Home goalie Sunny Hassan brought down Global’s Trinidadian forward Darryl Roberts. The referee called for a penalty which midfielder Kemy Agustien converted after six minutes of play.

All of a sudden Global were on the driver’s seat. The margin didn’t matter as the Cebu side just needed to win. Chances came for Global, but Hikaru Minegishi and substitute striker Misagh Bahadoran shot wide.

Global were forced to pay for their misses at the 36th minute when Home’s midfielder Song Ui-Young leveled the contest with a powerful strike. Both teams entered the break level although Global showed that the circumstances didn’t intimidate them in this tight affair.

Similar to the first half, the Dan Palami side opened the next period with a goal. Japanese forward Shu Sasaki was unmarked in the Home box and he headed the ball in at the 49th minute to give Global commanding lead in the contest.

At the 71st minute, things started to unravel for Global. Filipino-Italian midfielder Dennis Villanueva was given a red card for a foul against Marijan Suto. It was déjà vu for the Cebu club as it went through the same exact circumstances like the first leg held weeks ago.

Unfortunately for Global, there was to be no miracle this time around. The defense was caught sleeping as Plazibat scored his first goal at the 84th minute with a cold-blooded finish. The future was bleak for Global at this stage. With only 10 men on the pitch, Home sniffed blood and sought to end the game without extra time.

Global barely hung on and conceded a foul outside the box. In the last minute of stoppage time, Plazibat scored a fantastic and heartbreaking free kick to book Home’s ticket to the next round of the 2017 AFC Cup.

Allado explained, “We were just telling telling ourselves outside that I hope this free kick does not go in. My goalkeeper tried to save it. It’s a beautiful freekick.”

Home won the game 3-2 and formally advanced to the zonal finals with an aggregate score of 5-4 as Global was left to lament what might have been. It was a painful defeat for Global, but a necessary learning curve for the club and Philippine clubs in general.

Home United XI: Sunny, Yunos, Jantan, Ui-Young, Plazibat, Ramli, Nizam, Shafiq, Sharif, Asraf, Fandi

Global-Cebu XI: Deyto, Hartmann, Mulders, Villanueva, Minegishi, Agustien, Roberts, Clarino, Sasaki, Santos, Barbaso

Photo by Global-Cebu FC

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