Ceres Negros nips Home United to rule AFC Cup Asean Zone, advance to inter-zone playoffs
OJ Porteria scored early for Ceres.

CERES Negros took care of business right from the get-go to be named the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone champions following a 2-0 victory over Singaporean side Home United FC in front of a rocking Panaad Stadium in Bacolod. 

Aggregate score is at 3-2 as the Busmen bounced back from a 1-2 defeat in Bishan after claiming their first clean sheet in the tournament since their goalless draw against Felda United back in March 15. 

OJ Porteria and Manny Ott provided the goals while goalkeeper Roland Muller made some key stops in the second half as they became the first Philippine team to be named the ASEAN Zone champions.

Porteria, who started up front alongside Fernando Rodriguez, proved worthy of that selection as he smashed in the opener off a cross in just the second minute of the match. 

Rodriguez had two great chances to even pad the lead for Negros, but he sent his penalty up high in the 14th minute before being stopped by Hassan Sunny two minutes later one-on-one. 

But the second goal came for Ceres in the form of a masterful free kick from Manny Ott who curled in his ball pass the wall and into the top right corner of the goal in the 41st minute. 

Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic then decided to go defensive in the second half, putting together a five-man backline when he inserted center-back Kota Kawase for Rodriguez. 

That decision proved to play well for the Serbian tactician as Muller was rarely called into action - and when he was - he was superb. 

Muller made some great saves but none bigger than his stop on the 83rd minute against Stipe Plazibat. 

A goal for the Defenders would have forced extra time and that nearly came in the 83rd when Plazibat had a good shot on goal off a scramble. 

Thankfully for the home team, Muller was quick in tipping the ball high above the cross bar to deny the hero of Home in their semis win over Global Cebu a chance to break Filipino hearts anew. 

Bienve Maranon could have made it three-nil in the 90th minute but there was too much force on his attempted chip on Sunny. 

With the win, Ceres now becomes the ASEAN representative in the inter-zonal playoffs where the play Tajikistan side Istiklol who ruled the Central Asia zone. 

They play the first leg in Dushnabe on August 22 before heading back to Bacolod on Sept 12. 


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