The search for an elusive win in the Philippines Football League for the Davao Aguilas continues as they were held 1-1 by Ceres-Negros, Wednesday afternoon at the Davao del Norte Sports Complex.
Spaniard Fernando Rodriguez denied the Mindanao club what would have been their first victory in the league. He salvaged a crucial point as the Negrenses begin a gauntlet of matches that would allow them to catch up with the rest in terms of games played.
Before Rodriguez rescued the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone Champions from the brink of a costly defeat, an expected hot start from both teams ensued. Just like in their previous meeting three days ago, both Marko Trkulja and Roland Müller were kept busy. The latter had to be alert in pushing away a speculative effort from Omar Khan while the former needed to stop Iain Ramsay’s promising move from the flank.
By the way things looked, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a goal in the first half. The breakthrough was just around the corner and it duly arrived 27th minutes into the game in favor of the hosts. A Phil Younghusband free kick located Harrison Sawyer whose header fell kindly to James Younghusband. The elder of the famous brothers then tucked the ball in with conviction to put his team ahead for the first time against the Negrenses.
A backlash from Ceres-Negros is surely unsurprising as they willed themselves back into the game. An equalizer did not arrive before the break although the closest chance to do so arrived in the dying minutes of the half through Rodriguez. Conniving with compatriot Bienvenido Marañon, the forward’s fine effort just headed past the wrong side of the frame-a relief for Davao who did well to hold onto a slim halftime lead.
Trailing, Ceres-Negros launched an assault which aimed to salvage at least a point away from home. A barometer for such mission is the performance of Stephan Schröck, who had been brilliant all throughout the match. He repeatedly got his team going, who needed more than 73 minutes to break then resolve of Trkulja.
Before the equalizer, Davao earned two opportunities to keep Ceres further away with at least another goal. J. Younghusband and Sawyer spurned two decent chances that both would left to rue come full time.
Making the profligate Aguilas pay, Rodriguez smartly brushed the ball into the back of the net to level the scores and set up a grandstand finish in Tagum. The momentum undoubtedly swung in favor of the visitors, who unleashed their second attacking barrage of the night. Ramsay knew he should’ve done better when he scuffed a gilt-edged chance late in the match. The same could be said about Jeffrey Christiaens and Omid Nazari whose late efforts weren’t good enough to test the Serbian goalkeeper.
Absorbing all the pressure in the closing minutes of the match, the Aguilas thought for one moment that they clinched a winning goal against the run of play. However, Simone Rota’s header was disallowed for offside. That was the last time the ball made a bulge into the onion bag as the match concluded 1-all.
The result means that Ceres-Negros, who are at least five games behind of the top teams, gain their 29th point in the season. Provided they win all their games in hand, they are well-positioned to seize league leadership. Whether they will do just that remains to be seen. A test at home against Global-Cebu on Saturday is up next for the Negrenses.
Davao, meanwhile, have collected their seventh point of the season from a seventh stalemate out of 16 games. They will hope to improve their fortunes fast when they visit Stallion-Laguna this weekend.
Photo from Stephen Tan/Ceres-Negros FC