By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE push of Ceres-Negros FC to finish group play in the AFC Cup unblemished was not completed after it bowed to visiting Home United FC of Singapore, 2-0, on its final game in Group F on Wednesday night at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.
Needing to win to lock in the top spot in its grouping and advance outright to the next round of the competition, Ceres was instead left to rue the missed opportunity to maintain hold of group leadership against a highly determined Home United crew, who were running second entering the contest.
The Ceres defeat allowed Home United to pull even with the “Busmen” in the standings with four wins, a draw and a loss and 13 points apiece. But having the advantage in their head-to-head record, Home United claimed number one.
Despite losing though, Ceres still advanced to the ASEAN Zone semifinals of the AFC Cup, being the best second-placed team among the groups.
Recognizing that they somehow let their guards down, Ceres coach Risto Vidacovic said he hopes the loss serves as a hard lesson for his wards heading into the next round.
“Let this be a lesson for us. We have to continue playing and fighting. Nothing comes easy in the tournament,” said Mr. Vidacovic whose wards, the reigning ASEAN Zone winner, actually played well for much of the game but just could not complete things for the win.
“Maybe the players thought we were already in,” he added.
Ceres dominated first-half action on Wednesday night in front of its fans but could not sustain it the rest of the way.
Home United midfielder Izzdin Shafiq gave his team the lead in the 80th minute, scoring off a free kick.
The hosts tried to get back the goal but just could not go over the hump.
For good measure, the visiting team had another goal in added time care of midfielder Song Ui-young from a spot kick.
Ceres now focuses its attention on its two-legged semifinal clash with Myanmar’s Yangon United FC to be played in May.
Meanwhile, Global Cebu FC, the other Philippine side that qualified for the AFC Cup, finished its campaign on a winning note with a 3-1 away victory over Bali United FC.
A brace from Spanish player Rufo (2’ and 45+1’) and a goal by Paul Mulders (33’) accounted for the score of Global.
Global exited what was a rough tournament campaign in Group G with a record of two wins, two draws and two losses for eight points, good for second place.