By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WHILE happy to have been able to overcome its first hurdle in the preliminaries of the AFC Champions League 2020, top local club football team Ceres-Negros FC nonetheless looks to shape up some more heading into the next round.
Defeated Shan United FC of Myanmar, 3-2, in their Preliminary Round 1 match on Tuesday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, the “Busmen” advanced to round 2 and are facing Port FC of Thailand on Jan. 21 in Bangkok.
Recognizing that competition could only get stiffer, they said they have to pick up their game if they want to see their goal of making it to the group play Asia’s prestigious club tournament.
“As we know we had limited preparation heading into the game but I’m very happy for the players. They played hard and they deserved to win,” said Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic postgame.
“I don’t know how much percent we are in right now but I think we are still far from the form we want to be in. Three training sessions are not enough. It usually takes six weeks to prepare a team well. Hopefully we get to put in more in training and be better,” added the coach, who also shared that he would allow his players to rest first before plunging back to training.
Against Shan United, Ceres started strong, controlling the opening half and securing a 2-nil lead by the break with goals from Robert Lopez Mendy (5’) and Bievenido Maranon (41’).
It had chances to add on to its lead in the early goings of the second half but failed to connect on them.
Shan United managed to narrow the gap, 2-1, in the 73rd minute when Zin Min Tun scored.
But OJ Porteria helped Ceres extend its lead anew, 3-1, when found the bottom of the net in the 79th minute.
Shan United though would not go down sans a fight, pushing to within 3-2 in the 87th minute of the contest care of Djawa M.
It continued its charge back all the way to the four-minute added time but Ceres would dig deep and stand its ground to hang on and preserve the win.
Despite seeing his team fail to keep the spirited level of play it had early on, Mr. Porteria, named man of the match after, said he liked what he saw and encouraged moving forward.
“We only had three or four days of preparation but I’m happy we got to keep the game in control. I’m happy for the boys. We have players who have experience, players who are fresh. We showed a lot of heart and we did not give up,” said Mr. Porteria.
“This is a good step. The game was not easy but we adjusted. We are still working our way to form but we will get there eventually,” he added.