By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WITH its AFC Champions League (ACL) bid abruptly coming to an end on Tuesday night in Bacolod City, top local club football team Ceres-Negros FC shifts its focus to the AFC Cup where it hopes to do better.
Losing, 2-1, to Yangon United FC of Myanmar in their first preliminary stage knockout match of the 2019 AFC Champions League at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium, the “Busmen” saw their tournament aspirations dashed at the onset while being relegated to Asia’s second-tier tournament AFC Cup, which will start next month.
Ceres needed to beat Yangon United to advance to the next round of the ACL next week but just could not keep in step with the visiting side which took the fight to the hometown bets.
Showing much aggressiveness right from the kickoff despite playing on enemy territory, Yangon United had Ceres working.
The efforts of the visiting side eventually paid off in the 29th minute when Brazilian Vinicius de Oliveira gave it the 1-0 lead.
But the Busmen regrouped as the opening half drew to a close with Stephan Schrock converting a pass from Martin Steuble in the 44th minute to make it 1-1 by the halftime break.
Yangon United continued with its go-getting mindset to begin the second half.
And it did not take long before it seized the lead anew as substitute Kaung Htet Soe scored in the 59th minute.
Ceres desperately tried to claw its way back for the remainder of the contest but just could not get the break it needed as it slumped to the defeat.
After the match, the Busmen said they could have played far better than they did but nonetheless gave credit to their opponents for making things happen in booking a spot in the second stage of the preliminaries of the ACL.
Armed with the lessons of their recent loss, Ceres hopes to use them when they compete in three weeks’ time in the AFC Cup.
“Hopefully we get to perform better in the next tournament. Tonight we just did not play good enough but we will work on the things we did wrong and be ready in three weeks,” said Mr. Shrock following their match against Yangon United.
He was seconded by Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic, who said they would use the next few days to evaluate and assess what happened to them against Yangon United and make the needed adjustments.
“We have to prepare for the AFC Cup and make the necessary adjustments to perform better,” said Mr. Vidakovic.
In the AFC Cup, which kicks off on March 11, Ceres is lumped together with Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Durong, Indonesia’s Persija Jakarta and Myanmar’s Shan United in Group G.
The Busmen begin their campaign against Becamex Binh Durong away at the Binh Durong Stadium on March 12.
Also seeing action in the AFC Cup is Kaya FC-Iloilo, the Copa Paulino Alcantara champion, which is playing in Group H along with Home United FC of Singapore, Lao Toyota FC of Laos and PSM Makassar of India.