By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
PHILIPPINE teams competing in the 2018 AFC Cup are headed for separate directions following the penultimate play date of group play on Wednesday night.
While reigning Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros FC fortified its position of advancing to the next round of the tournament with a 4-0 shellacking of Cambodia’s Boeung Ket FC, the tough campaign for the already-eliminated Global Cebu FC continued after needing a late-game surge just to hack out a 3-3 draw with Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa.
The ASEAN Zone winners last year, Ceres is looking solid heading into the zonal semifinals.
Currently at the top of Group F with a 4-1-0 record, the “Busmen” have yet to lose in the ongoing tournament and continue to make a solid case as one of the teams to beat anew, further underscored by their trouncing of home team Boeung Ket on April 11.
Star forward Bienvenido Maranon once again led Ceres to the big win, scoring a hat trick which proved to be too much for the hosts.
Spanish Maranon exploded late in the opening half, scoring back-to-back goals in the 36th and 38th minute, rocking Boeung Ket and their supporters.
In the second half, Ceres sustained its aggressiveness and kept taking the fight to its opponent.
Mr. Maranon completed his hat trick in the 69th minute, converting off a pass from teammate OJ Porteria.
For good measure, Ceres was able to add another goal care of Takumi Uesato in the 84th minute.
Playing well from end to end, Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic expressed his satisfaction after their win.
“We controlled the game from the beginning until the end and I think we deserve the result. It was fit 4-0. We missed a lot of chances but I think my players played a good game today,” Mr. Vidakovic was quoted as saying by the official Ceres website postgame.
Meanwhile, Global fell behind early to Thanh Hoa in their Group G match held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium but mustered the determination and grit in the end to level the count and settle for a draw.
The two teams exchanged goals early in the match with the visiting side going up first in the second minute with an Edward Ofere goal which was answered four minutes later by Global forward Rufo.
Thanh Hoa would make some separation as the match progressed with goals from Le Thanh Binh (25’) and Hoang Dinh Tung (57’).
But while the Vietnamese side was seemingly on its way to a win, Global would fashion a furious fightback in the last 10 minutes of regulation time.
Wesley Dos Santos made it a 3-2 count when he scored in the 82nd minute and Darryl Roberts added another in the 90th minute to force a stalemate and with both teams settling for a point each.
The draw, which was in follow up to its victory in its previous game, improved Global to 1-2-2 and five points but still outside of the playoff picture.
“Our opponent played well tonight and was the better team but in terms of spirit Global just won’t give up till the end. So we scored two goals in the last moments of the match. And that is something I like about this team,” said Global coach Marjo Allado in the postgame press conference.
“While we are out of the running, we are still fighting for pride and we hope to finish second in our group by taking our last game and earn the three points and finish our campaign in the AFC Cup on a good note,” he added.
Ceres and Global play their final group matches on April 25 with the former taking on Singapore’s Home United FC in Bacolod City while the Global faces off with Bali United FC in Indonesia.