CERES Negros found the back of the net just in the nick of time as it pulled away late against Shan United to secure a 2-0 result in the 2018 AFC Cup group stages at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod.
Substitute Patrick Reichelt and Bienve Maranon got into the scoring action late as the home squad came away with the necessary goals to put away the tough fighting club from Myanmar in their rematch of the Asian Champions League qualifying match last month.
“It’s not easy to play teams that are dedicated at defending but the effort was good and of course the players gave everything,” said Ceres head coach Risto Vidakovic.
“There’s a lot of things we have to improve. We have to be more patient when we build up. The most important thing is that we got the goal and did not concede any goal,” he added.
The home side dominated the match from the get-go, getting the lion’s share of possessions but was frustrated by the disciplined defense of Shan United’s backline.
That same backline however turned out to be Shan’s own pitfall as they failed to clear Mike Ott’s cross inside the box, resulting into an easy tap in from Reichelt in the 79th minute.
That was a well-deserved goal for the Busmen who had plenty of chances early on, with the biggest coming six minutes before the first goal when Maranon had a clear look from inside the box but headed the ball wide.
Maranon however wouldn’t miss another big chance as he finally broke his slump in the 83rd minute with a short strike to double the lead for the hosts.
He got plenty of help from Mike Ott, with the diminutive midfielder coming up with a moment of brilliance to serve the goal on a silver platter for the misfiring Maranon who easily slotted the ball in.
Ott broke down two defenders from the left flank and then attracted the heart of the Shan defense, before sending the ball to Maranon who hit the ball low for what turned out to be the final nail in the coffin in the match.
It was also a big boost in the confidence for the usually outstanding Spaniard after missing a penalty in their match against Home United and misfiring a few ones after that.
Shan had its best chance to get a goal in the 86th minute when Ceres keeper Toni Doblas was caught outside his area but thankfully for the home fans, Patrick Asare’s strike went over the bar.
The win secured the top spot in Group F for the reigning Asean Zone and PFL Champions as they sit comfortably with seven points halfway through the group stages.
Singapore’s Home United, Ceres’ closest pursuers, dropped crucial points following a 3-2 shock defeat at the hands of the erstwhile winless Boeung Ket Angkor, 3-2, in Phnom Phen. The Defenders remain at second with four points.
The winner of the group advances to the knockout stages while the best second-placed team in terms of points and goal differential also advances.
Shan United sits at third with three points and a -2 goal difference as Boeung Ket Ankor remains at the bottom with the same number of points and a -8 goal difference.
The Busmen returns to action when Wednesday next week when it visits Shan United in Myanmar before finally playing their first game in the Philippines Football League when it hosts Kaya Futbol Club on April4.