By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Reporter

AFC Cup: Ceres draws, Kaya loses

Posted on February 25, 2016

IT WAS a mixed bag of results for local clubs representing the Philippines in the 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup with Ceres-La Salle FC hacking out a draw and Kaya FC losing in their respective campaign openers on Tuesday night.

Philippine side Ceres-La Salle FC and Malaysia’s Selangor FA fought to a 2-2 draw in their AFC Cup opener on Tuesday night in Bacolod City. --
United Football League (UFL) Division 1 champion Ceres dug deep to hold Malaysian side to a 2-2 draw in their Group E opener at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City while UFL Cup champ Kaya bowed to home side Kitchee, 1-0, in their Group F encounter at the Mongkok Stadium in Hong Kong.

Playing in front of some 8,000 people that trekked to Panaad Stadium, Ceres gave local fans something to cheer about early as it was first on the scoreboard with Philippine Azkals stalwart Stephan Schrock connecting at the 18th minute of the match with a howitzer that blew past Selangor keeper Norazlan Bin Razali.

Filipino-German Schrock is a new addition to the Ceres roster, along with Kevin Ingreso, whom the team hopes could help it go deep in the AFC Cup.

But the home side’s celebration proved to be short-lived as the visiting club equalized in the 34th minute by way of Argentine Mauro Olivi’s heady play near the net that had Ceres keeper Mike Casas forced to an error.

The two teams headed into the halftime tied at 1-1.

At the 60th minute, it was Selangor’s turn to put the pressure on Ceres with Mohamad Kamal converting on a free kick to give his side the upper hand.

With its back on the wall, Ceres scrambled to rally back and its efforts were not to go for naught as Adrian Gallardo pulled the team even in the last three minutes of regulation for the draw.

Both teams wound up with a point each for the 2-2 stalemate.

While it would have wanted to open things with a victory, Ceres, nonetheless, was happy with its performance as it showed it has what it takes to compete with some of the best clubs in the region.

“It’s a good start for us,” newly appointed Ceres coach Franklin Muescan was quoted as saying by the AFC Cup Web site after the match. “The boys showed their heart. They proved that we can level up against one of the strong teams in the competition,” he said.

“There was a lot of emotion within the team since it was a historic night for the club. The goal helped us settle down but after an individual mistake the level of our play dropped. But we didn’t give up mentally,” Mr. Muescan said.

And the good showing of Ceres did not go unnoticed as Selangor made mention of it after.

“We have achieved our target to collect a point. It was very tough match. We know Ceres is a very good team and they play good football,” said Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan.

Playing in its first-ever AFC Cup, Kaya still made a good account of itself despite ending on the raw side of their opener with Kitchee.

Kaya stood toe to toe three-fourths of the way with the home side until Kitchee, which reached the quarterfinal round of the tournament last year, broke through at the 69th minute with Spaniard Rufino Segovia on the firing end for what turned out as the winning goal.

“Both teams played well, but Kitchee got the penalty which made the difference,” said Kaya coach Joel Villarino after in assessing their debut at the AFC Cup, Asia’s secondary club football tournament.

“We have to do something about our game ahead of the next match but we have learned from tonight and we can adjust things in the time before then,” he was quoted as saying.

Ceres will go to Bangladesh to play Sheik Jamal Dhanmondi Club Ltd. while Kaya hosts Maldives side New Radiant on March 8.

In the AFC Cup group stage, teams play in a round robin of home-and-away games with the top two from the eight groups advancing to the round of 16.