CERES Negros FC formally entered the 2017 AFC Cup zonal semifinals as it demolished 10-man Tampines Rovers 4-2, on Wednesday afternoon in Singapore.
Bienve Maranon needed just 17 minutes to complete a brace and push the Busmen ahead early as his two goals off the counter caught the hosts off guard.
Maranon scored on a tap-in on the sixth minute and doubled that in the 23rd as he neatly finished a cross from the left flank.
Muhammad Hanapi pulled one back for the Tampines Rovers two minutes later but Fernando's penalty in the 45th minute gave Ceres a 3-1 lead before the half.
The door opened again for the hosts when Hanapi scored on the penalty but Kota Kawase's header off the set piece in the 66th minute shut the door on the Singaporeans.
"I’m proud of the players because getting out of this group wasn’t easy,” said Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic. “We had to attack because any other result would not have been enough. We have to enjoy this. Its a big result for the club.”
With the victory, Ceres finished on top of Group G with 11 points.
Although Hanoi stayed tied with Ceres after a 4-1 victory over Felda, the Busmen's 6-2 win in Hanoi spelled the difference in the rankings.
The Ilonggo side will now brace for a tough home-and-away knockout match against regional powerhouse Johor Darul Ta'zim, which finished as the best second in the region.