CERES Negros had a nightmare start in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal playoffs after suffering a deflating 0-4 result at the hands of a superb Istiklol FC side on Tuesday night at the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajiskitan.
Manuchekhr Dzhalilov notched an all-important brace in the second half, goals which looked like the final nails in the coffin of the Philippine team in this home-away tie.
Akhtam Nazarov and Romish Dzhalilov opened the scoring for Tajikistan to highlight a fine performance right from the get-go for the hosts.
Nazarov got in the board on the 25th minute from the penalty area after Kota Kawase conceded a spot kick with a reckless tackle on forward Dmitry Barkov.
Just a minute before interval, Romish doubled the Istiklol lead as Manuchekhr found him off a well placed cross to cap a dominant half where the visitors never had a single goal attempt - whether on or off target.
The Busmen started to garner momentum early in the second half as they looked more composed with the ball and more patient on attack, opening up chances for Bienve Maranon to no avail.
That momentum however was quickly halted by a Manuchekhr super strike after teeing off the ball just a few yards outside of the top corner of the box.
Ceres' home leg then turned from tough to nearly mission impossible after Manuchekhr doubled up on his tally, converting off a heady pass from substitute forward Dilshod Vasiev in the 88th minute.
The Busmen will now have to be in the best form of their lives in their return leg in Panaad if they want to turn the tie around dramatically.