THE country’s best football club will be crowned on Saturday when unlikely finalists Ceres and PSG battle for the Philippine Football Federation-Smart Club Championship at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. with Negros Occidental-based Ceres hoping to complete its Cinderella run and PSG, formerly known as Pasargad, eager to put up a fight without some of its key Iranian booters.
After making waves in the tournament via stunning victories over United Football League champions Stallion and Global in the knockout phase, Ceres moved on the verge of the title by turning back another UFL heavyweight in Kaya, 3-1, in the semifinals last Saturday.
PSG, on the other hand, defeated Philippine Army in the Round of 16 and General Trias in the quarterfinals before overhauling an early deficit in the semifinals to beat Green Archers United in a penalty shootout.
PSG’s latest win, however, came at a steep price as flashy goalkeeper Reza Ataei, striker Emmanuel Mbata, midfielder Charles Ujam, and center-back Jaham Taher, were all sent off for different reasons, automatically getting suspended for the finals.
But Ceres coach Freddie Lazarito remains wary of his undermanned opponents.
“We will take nothing for granted. We will prepare as if Pasargad is complete,” said Lazarito, who will be counting on his crew made up Bacolod, Korean, and British booters. “Our biggest enemy will be complacency as we think this match is a won one.”
PSG coach Esmail Sedigh conceded it will be a tough battle for the crown.
“Our backs are against the wall. There were lapses in our concentration that led to the dismissal of our key players,” he said. “We can only learn from this and move forward.”
Kaya and the Archers collide in the battle for third place at 4 o’clock.