Just about two months ago, Ceres-Negros couldn’t fend off Shan United in 90, minutes as they scraped their way into the second preliminary round of the AFC Champions League on penalties. This time around, Ceres picked up all three points in the Group F encounter of the AFC Cup with a 1-0 win, Wednesday afternoon at the TYC Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
Bienve Marañon was on target to hand Ceres their third win in the competition. They also went closer to reaching the playoff rounds, but not without a stiff challenge from their Burmese rivals.
The Busmen took control of the match early on, constantly pressuring the home side’s defense. Opportunities did not come aplenty for the visitors in the first 15 minutes, yet they managed to take the lead within the said period.
Fourteen minutes into the match, an incursion by Marañon led to a penalty, after Hein Phyo Win handled the ball inside the 18-yard box. The Spaniard, who had missed a penalty in Singapore in Ceres’ last away outing, made sure lightning didn’t strike twice with a cool finish past Shan goalkeeper Phone Thit Sar Min a minute later.
Ceres’ goal looked to have awoken Shan United from their slumber. Just three minutes after falling behind, William Nyakwe had a golden chance to restore parity with a header. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even test Ceres keeper Toni Doblas, who had little to do throughout the opening half.
Nine minutes before halftime, the visitors had another sniff on goal. Ott brothers Mike and Manny worked together to unlock an organized Shan defense, with the latter’s attempt just deflected away from danger.
Deep into the five minutes of first-half added time, the hosts had one last glance of goal, with Lee Han Kuk’s long range effort forcing a fingertip save from Doblas. As soon as the former Napoli and Real Betis custodian kept the ball out, Malaysian referee Muhammad Nazmi Nasaruddin blew the halftime whistle.
The start of the second half saw plenty of action on both ends of the field, and and it culminated close to the hour mark. In the 55th minute, Christopher Chizoba looked to exploit the visitors’ high line. Doblas came to his team’s aid by stopping the African’s attempt.
Five minutes later, the older of the two Otts, Manny, knew he should have done better when his promising shot from inside the box drifted wide. A few inches to the right would have made it a mountain to climb for the hosts.
Instead of cushioning their lead, Ceres endured the next few minutes by absorbing the home team’s attacks. Nay Lin Tun couldn’t locate the target when he decided to chip the Negrenses’ Spanish shot-stopper.
Ceres had a scare when Kevin Ingreso appeared to have handled the ball. The referee shut down penalty appeals by the hosts, who needed all the luck they could get in salvaging a point. Their next best chance of doing so fell to substitute Patrick Asare, who lacked the composure to beat the experienced Doblas.
Ceres could have cushioned their lead had it not been for the woodwork thwarting OJ Porteria’s effort. He got on the end of the rebound, but the Shan keeper managed to get something away from it.
In the end, Ceres solidified their grip on Group F leadership, as they now enjoy a six-point gap between them and Home United, who are hosting Boeung Ket at the moment.
The Busmen will travel next to Cambodia to take on Boeung Ket, knowing that another win will take them closer to the playoffs. The match will take place on April 11.