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Photo courtesy of the AFC

AFC Cup

Gallardo hat-trick sends Ceres-La Salle FC to the Round of 16 in style


Photo courtesy of AFC

With their slot in the knockout stages already sealed, reigning United Football League Champions Ceres-La Salle FC closed out the group stages with a demolition of Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club, 5-0, in front of the home fans at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium, Tuesday evening.

Knowing of the opponents’ tendency to play high, Ceres piled on the pressure up top from the get-go. Winning a corner kick as early as the 7th minute, the home side converted the early opportunity. Bienvenido Marañon finished off the corner kick from Manny Ott to put Ceres on top, 1-0.

Just a few seconds after, Martin Steuble won a ball in the midfield and found Patrick Reichelt on the right flank. Reichelt then sent a lovely diagonal ball to a Adrian Gallardo, who was cutting inside, and the latter blasted the ball into goal to double the lead for Ceres-La Salle. If not for Mohammad Maksudur Rahman’s timely stop, Gallardo could have gotten his second of the night minutes after, as the first half ended at 2-0 for the hosts.

The visitors appeared to have settled down at the start of the second period; however, they could not find the back of the net, even as Landing Darboe constantly probed the Ceres backline. The black-shirts, nonetheless, continued to press for more goals given the situation of the match.

After winning possessions in the midfield, Ceres-La Salle pounced on the attack. In the 56th minute, Reichelt sent a short low pass into the box for Gallardo, who calmly shot the ball into the goal for his second and the team’s third goal of the night.

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In the 64th minute, Sheik Jamal attempted to snatch one back, but the ball went out for a goal kick. At the restart, Ceres’ goalie Louie Casas blasted a long ball forward and found Reichelt’s, who knocked it down for Gallardo. The Spaniard found opposing keeper Rahman off his line to put Ceres well ahead at 4-0 and register a hat trick.

Sensing blood, Ceres put the game away in the 70th minute. Reichelt, who had assisted Gallardo to score, took one of his own. The former Azkals winger found himself free on the flank and outwitted his defender for the team’s final goal of the match.

The closest chance for the visitors happened in the 77th minute, but Emeka Onuoha’s free kick would not bother Casas. More opportunities went Ceres’ way, but they could not add to the tally. Nevertheless, the reigning UFL kings go into the quarterfinals beaming with confidence.

Man of the Match Gallardo said in the televised post-game interview, “I’m very happy for the team. They played well tonight.” However, the Spanish striker agrees that they need to work harder for the upcoming knockout stage. “We have more to improve,” he ended.

Ceres-La Salle will play the runners-up of Group G on May 24 at the same venue. Currently, three teams are still in the hunt for that second spot from Group G: Hong Kong’s South China, Myanmar’s Yangon United, and Maldives’ Maziya.

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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