By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FALLING short in its quest to make it to the main draw of AFC Champions League (ACL) 2020, top local club Ceres-Negros FC now turns its focus to the AFC Cup which begins next month.
Bowed to FC Tokyo, 2-0, in their Champions League qualification match on Tuesday in Japan, Ceres saw its tournament aspirations crushed anew.
The “Busmen” competed against the J League team but just could not stop the latter once it got the breakthrough it was angling for.
Goals from Sei Muroya and Adailton Da Silva in the second half did it for the host team, ending in the process the Bacolod-based Ceres’ spirited run in the tournament.
The win pushed Tokyo to the main draw of the AFC Champions League, whose group play begins in February.
Played under heavy rain at the Tokyo Stadium, the two teams struggled to get their attack going in the first half, fighting to a nil-nil count at the break.
In the second half, Tokyo broke through early, with Mr. Muroya connecting from 15 yards to hand the 1-0 lead to his team.
Tokyo kept the pressure on Ceres’ defense after but the latter stood its ground.
The hosts got their second goal just before the match hit the 90th minute care of Mr. Adailton, which all but secured the win for them.
In the lead-up to the game, Ceres made it known that win or lose they intend to use their Champions League run as added learning to the team for this year and beyond.
In the AFC Cup, the Busmen will start their campaign in Group G along with Vietnam’s Tha Quang Ninh, Indonesia’s Bali United and a still-to-be-known team.
It begins its bid on Feb. 11.
In last year’s edition of the AFC Cup, three-time Philippines Football League champion Ceres reached the ASEAN Zonal semifinals where it lost to Ha Noi FC of Vietnam.