Not even a full week had gone since their disheartening AFC Cup exit when Ceres-La Salle played another knockout tie. Away from home this time, they made sure there would be no repeat of midweek’s result.
The Negros side marched on to a 3-1 victory, having to come after extra time, against the Garena Young Lions in the Round of 16 of the RHB Singapore Cup last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the city state.
One of the foreign teams in the tournament, Ceres-La Salle was heavily poised to enter the quarterfinals as they were pitted against the team currently at the foot of the table. Nonetheless, the Singaporeans created the early chances in the match. Inside the first 11 minutes, Fareez Farhan sent two wonderful crosses and while the first one had no takers, the second try almost resulted in a goal only for Jordan Pereira to head it wide.
Having settled into the match, the visitors took their turn 15 minutes into the match. Gifted by Young Lions goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad, Stephan Schröck fell quite short in making him pay. The on-loan midfielder from Greuter Fürth had the goal gaping but he somehow missed the mark. Another chance came Ceres-La Salle’s way six minutes after as Bienvenido Marañon’s cross was punched away towards Schröck who once more fluffed the attempt wayward.
As the game was becoming dull, the Young Lions nearly opened the scoring in the 34th minute. Muhaimin Suhaimi’s nice through ball found Hazim Faiz. He then had a glorious opportunity of beating Louie Casas, who in the end managed to charge down and keep the ball from bulging his net. It was a close call for Ceres-La Salle who were exposed by the hosts approaching halftime. Yet, it was the visiting side ended up with the advantage come the break.
A minute before halftime, Schröck put his team ahead. The Filipino international received a nifty through pass from Manny Ott before he glided past Rohaizad and slotted the ball into the unguarded net. Perhaps it was a deserved goal for Ceres-La Salle and for Schröck who had juat narrowly missed in his previous tries.
After the interval, Ceres kept the pace in their pursuit for the cushioning second goal. Again, Schröck was at the end of a Jeffrey Christiaens cross but he couldn’t get his header on target. Martin Steuble and Ott also attempted to contribute but their daring long shots were harmless. Then, Carli de Murga came so close from sealing the win when he got to strike from close range. Rohaizad, however, made an important save to keep his team in it. The Filipino-Spanish defender had a second take only for it to soar above everyone else.
On the back foot for most of the second half, the Young Lions regained their footing in the tie with only three minutes to spare. Pereira tapped in a wild ball which ricocheted twice off the post, catching Ceres-La Salle off guard and forcing the affair into extra time.
Again in extra time just like in their Round of 16 tie against South China five nights ago, Ceres-La Salle had a scare of falling behind once more when Paul Mulders was accused of illegally taking down Farhan in the area. Penalty appeals were waved by the referee to the dismay of the Young Lions. Dodging the bullet, the 2015 UFL Champions took it to their own hands midway through the opening half of extra time.
Captain Kim Sang-Min drilled the ball in the net with his head. The Korean laid the second touch on Steuble’s free kick after Patrick Reichelt’s flick led the ball to his path. A one-goal lead, even in extra time, is always precarious so it was quite imperative for Ceres-La Salle to pad their advantage as soon as possible. Having failed to do that in normal time, it came as a pleasant surprise for them that they had it in a jiffy the second time around.
It took less than two minutes for Schröck to score his second and Ceres-La Salle’s third by heading the ball easily. Goalkeeper Rohaizad was left to watch helplessly as he made a poor decision of advancing too early in meeting the ball. A De Murga shot in the second half of extra time just brushed off the post, but it would have just been the icing on the cake as the Philippine champions rediscovered their winning touch on foreign soil.
The prize for Ceres-La Salle’s Sunday evening victory is a quarterfinal date with another S-League team, Brunei DPMM. Kickoff details are yet to be determined.
*Photo from Ceres-La Salle FC