With the weight of Philippine club football on its shoulders, Ceres-Negros Football Club weathered what could have been a disastrous storm to prolong its campaign in Asian football’s biggest competition.
In front of 3,704 fans inside the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Tuesday night, Risto Vidakovic’s men emerged victorious over Myanmar National League side Shan United, 3-2, in the first preliminary round of the 2020 AFC Champions League.
“We had six weeks off and then before this game, we had four or five training sessions so we’re not fit. That’s why we wanted to keep the ball, and we just showed heart, and that’s what it took for us to do the whole ninety minutes,” commented attacking midfielder OJ Porteria.
The reigning kings of the Philippines Football League earned a two-goal cushion before the end of the first half. Two fine finishes from forwards Robert Lopez Mendy and Bienvenido Maranon put them ahead. Lopez Mendy found the back of the net after just five minutes of play with a sweet finish from his left foot; meanwhile, Maranon converted Porteria’s cross in the 40th minute.
The home side then had multiple chances to eliminate the visitors; however, their lack of a finishing touch allowed the latter to threaten to mount a comeback. A Zin Min Tun header in the 73rd minute first gave Shan United hope. Maximin Djawa later capitalized on Ceres defenders’ failure to clear their lines to pull a goal back three minutes from full-time.
Thankfully, though, a close-range goal from Porteria in the 79th minute in between both Shan strikes gave the Busmen the cushion they needed to seize the victory.
Up next for Ceres is an away clash against Port FC of Thailand, a team that finished in 3rd place in the country’s top division and has a former player of the Bacolod club, Martin Steuble, in its ranks. That game shall be played on January 21, 2020, 8:00 PM at the PAT Stadium in Bangkok.
“We are happy to play again there, especially against Martin (Steuble) because he is our former captain so I’m so happy to play against him, to play in Thailand. To play in Thailand is special. It’s nice to play there, but I think we have to get fit for this game and hopefully there we can win again,” said Maranon.
Ceres-Negros XI: Muller (GK), Kane, Super, Ott, Maranon, Odawara, Porteria, Schrock ©, Villanueva, Minegishi, Lopez Mendy.
Shan United XI: Thiha Sithu (GK, C), Ye Min Thu, David Htan, Hein Thiha Zaw, Nanda Kyaw, Nah Keith, Zin Min Tun, Djedje Maximin Djawa, Tagoe Daniel Nii Armah, Yan Naing Oo, Yakubu Abybakar.