CERES-La Salle moved a step closer of sustaining supremacy in club football in the country as it survived Global FC, 2-1, in the first leg of the Philippine Football Federation-Smart National Club Championship Finals on Thursday at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
The defending champions from Bacolod leaned on a goal each from Joshua Beloya and Jason Panhay as they gained the morale-boosting victory over the United Football League powerhouse.
A scoreless draw in the second leg on Saturday at the same venue will be enough for Ceres to capture its second successive crown in the tournament that seeks to determine the top football club in the Philippines.
Cheered on by a noisy, partisan crowd, Panhay broke through the Global defense a minute before first-half stoppage time, when he scored on the counterattack to give his team the lead.
Angel Guirado equalized for Global nine minutes after the restart, slotting home a Rufo Sanchez cross near the penalty box.
But Beloya, who occasionally plays on loan for Global in the UFL, emerged the villain this time as he struck the winner eight minutes later.
Global has a chance to win the title if the Azkals-laden club can score a 1-0 victory in the second leg, courtesy of the away-goals rule, with the lone goal of Global in the first leg equivalent to two points.
In the first leg, Ceres was designated as the home team, while Global was the away squad.
The away-goals rule, though, will only take effect if the aggregate score after the second leg ends up tied.