Ceres-La Salle bucked a sluggish start to overwhelm Agila FC, 7-2, on Thursday night and earn a place in the quarterfinals of the United Football League Cup at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
The reigning National Club champions from Bacolod went behind early before leaning on a second-half surge to arrange a quarterfinal meeting with Union Internacionale Manila, which beat General Trias International, 4-1, in their own Round-of-16 match last Tuesday.
“It’s uncharacteristic for us to start very slow in the first half,” said Ceres manager Ali Go, who blamed the sluggish opening to lack of warm-up time given by UFL officials.
“They gave us only twenty to twenty five minutes of warm-up,” Go said. “For a football match, that’s a lack of time for warm-ups.”
Jason Panhay shone brightest with a brace, including a neat free kick conversion that knotted the count at 2-all late in the first half.
“Siya ang free kick specialist talaga namin,” Go said of the 26-year-old San Carlos City native.
Ceres, made up of a mix of Koreans, Africans, and Filipinos, never looked back from there, scoring five more goals in the second half to pull away.
Aside from Panhay, Younousse Yaogo, Kim Jin Ho, Joshua Beloya, and Hwaseo Park scored for Ceres, while Alvin Perez scored an own goal for Agila.
Beloya, an Azkal, converted right in the first possession after coming in late in the second half, scoring on a volley into an empty goal.
Defending champion Stallion likewise clinched a round-of-eight slot after blanking Cebu Queen City United, 2-0, in the first game.
Skipper Balot Doctora and Bo Bae Park found the back of the net in the first half for the Stallions, who now await the winner between second seed Global and 15th seed Philippine Navy.