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Tiebreaker Times

AFC Cup

Ceres-La Salle edge out Tampines Rovers, wrest group leadership


After scraping a draw in Singapore, defending United Football League champions Ceres-La Salle FC consolidated it with a narrow 2-1 win over Tampines Rovers FC in front of a boisterous hometown crowd, Tuesday night at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.

The match suffered a delay due to a sudden downpour of rain in the city. Nevertheless, the wait just made the audience more pumped,as the kick-off whistle was finally sounded at 8:05 pm. The delay seemed to energize the home side as well, as they were dangerous from the get-go. Ceres-La Salle kept Tampines Rovers goalkeeper Joey Sim busy with several dangerous ball into the penalty area.

Ultimately, the pressure paid off for Ceres as the Mighty Stags were called for a handball, and Ceres were awarded a penalty kick in the 20th minute. Bienve Marañon calmly sent the consequent spot kick past Sim to put the home squad on top. Adrian Gallardo almost made it a 2-0 lead, only he was called for an offside infraction.

The visitors attempted to turn it around but Ceres keeper Louie Casas stopped a close-range header from Fazrul Nawaz in the 26th minute. After Tampines denied the yellow-shirts on the other end, Fazrul found himself one-on-one with Casas, and shot the ball into the net. Nevertheless, the goal was disallowed as Fazrul was deemed offside on the attempt.

Ceres resumed their attacking mode after that spell from the visitors. At the half-hour mark, Marañon sent a pass to Patrick Reichelt, which almost went in. Ott tried for a follow up, but this time the defense cleared. In the 34th minute, Irwan Shah was booked for a reckless tackle on Reichelt. In the succeeding free kick, another penalty was awarded to Ceres. Gallardo made no mistake this time as he blasted the ball past Sim, doubling the lead for the hosts going into the break.

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The guests played with urgency as soon as the match resumed. Tampines were able to send several balls into the path of towering forward Billy Mehmet, which would have led to goals if not for the Ceres defense. However, this served as a warning for the home team, as Jordan Webb and Jermaine Pennant finally joined the attack for the Mighty Stags.

Ceres looked to get their counter-attack going with frequent runs from the right flank, but a Reichelt run was stopped, although Ceres won a corner. Repeated attempts were denied by the opposing defense, and in the scuffle, Manny Ott found a 50-50 ball bounce in front of him. Nonetheless, the long heave from the national team member could not hit the back of the net.

Tampines’ good run and build-up play in the second period finally bore fruit in the 64th minute. Pennant found Muhammad Yasir on top of the box, who then sent the ball to Mehmet. Mehmet got a touch on the ball, and it grazed the roof the net and over Casas as Tampines got one back.

The goal woke up the visitors as they almost equalized just three minutes later. Webb cut into the penalty area, but his attempt was fired wide on Casas’ right side. Tampines were relentless on the attack; however, luckily for Ceres, nothing bothered Casas, and the defense was there with timely clearances.

Ceres again switched back to offense after sensing some danger on their opponent’s aggressiveness on their side of the goal. The hosts also tried to do combinations in front of the Tampines goal, and this time it was the latter who stifled everything the former fire at them.

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After several exchanges and box-to-box runs, the visitors got a midnight-hour chance effort for a tying goal. Pennant found Mustafic Farudin inside the 5-yard box, whose header unfortunately went wide. The final whistle but confirmed the full three points for the UFL titlists Ceres, taking with them the top spot for Group E.

Ceres-La Salle FC stake their unbeaten record against Selangor FA on April 26 at Selayang, Malaysia, while Tampines Rovers FC hosts Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club on the same day.

Photo Courtesy of AFC.com

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.


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