Dynamic Herb Cebu revealed the extent of the work required to establish itself as a continental force after enduring a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Cambodian powerhouse Phnom Penh Crown on Thursday night in the 2023-2024 AFC Cup group stage.
Coach Jordan Schirmar’s side was outclassed by the eight-time Cambodian Premier League champions, who asserted their superiority by breaking the deadlock just before halftime and adding two more goals in the second half.
As a popular saying in modern Philippine sports goes, it was indeed a valuable learning experience for Cebu, with many lessons that needed to be absorbed for the PFL club to progress to the next round.
“First, I think, we didn’t capitalize on our chances when we had them. When we made our mistakes, we got punished by the opponent. For me, we need to be more, in terms of football, we need to be more opportunistic in terms of scoring goals,” said defensive midfielder Daniel Gadia.
“When we had a chance to score, we needed to score it, you know? If we lose (the ball), we should try to really balance the defense so they cannot punish us right away because we (when) we have a chance on the cross, they punish us with a header,” the former UP Fighting Maroon continued.
“We gave them a chance in transition, they punished us in transition and then one time, they punished us again on a cross. I think we need to be more mature in terms of how we attack and how we defend as a group.”
First games are often challenging for underdogs, and Cebu would like to put this result behind them and focus on their upcoming matches. Competing at the AFC Cup level showcases the club’s rapid rise, but it aspires to achieve more than just participating in an international tournament.
Cebu aims to go far in the competition, similar to what Kaya-Iloilo and Ceres-Negros did in years past. To achieve that, its players need to be more clinical in front of goal.
“Of course, we’ve got to taste an AFC side. They were champions in the Cambodian Premier League and siguro lang the next few games, since we know the level and the intensity of the teams already, we’re gonna keep working hard and hopefully, yun nga, yung problema namin we weren’t able to capitalize on our chances,” said winger JB Borlongan.
“We’ll work on our finishing siguro when we get back on the training ground because that’s really how we change the complex of the game. If we score, the complex of the game will change.”
Cebu still has five matches remaining in Group F, offering the club a chance for significant improvement and a shot at advancing to the next round.
Macarthur FC from Australia and Shan United from Myanmar are looming on the horizon for the Visayas-based club. Winning those matches will be a challenging endeavor, but the team will give its all to achieve it.
“We’re looking forward to cover individual performance to make it better and group performance as well. I think the coach will really try to come up with the solution in every individual and group mistake that we have to work on,” said Gadia.
“We have five games and we know that all those five games won’t be easy. They will be against top teams. They’re all teams that are really dominating in their own countries. We should really step up big time. We should stay disciplined and work harder — twice harder than what we’re doing right now,” said Borlongan.