REIGNING ASEAN Zonal winner Ceres-Negros FC hosts Yangon United FC of Myanmar today for the first leg of their home-and-away knockout match in the AFC Cup.
Back in the KO stage of the tournament for the third straight year, the “Busmen” try to get its bid in the next phase of the competition to a good start in their 7 p.m. game at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.
Ceres was able to book a spot in the semifinals by catching the last bus as the best runner-up in group play after a big 2-0 loss to Home United FC of Singapore in its final game in Group F on April 25.
The turn of events spoiled Ceres’ dominant showing in group play where it practically led the grouping right from the start.
The loss pulled the Bacolod-based team to a share of the top spot with Home United with four wins, a draw and a loss and 13 points apiece.
Having the advantage in their head-to-head record though, Home United claimed number one.
But Ceres still got a break after the loss of Song Lam Nghe An in Group H that kept it at just 10 points.
Not having the finish they were looking for, Ceres was left to rue the tough loss to Home United and expressed hope that it served as a good lesson for the team moving forward.
“Let this be a lesson for us. We have to continue playing and fighting. Nothing comes easy in the tournament,” said Ceres coach Risto Vidacovic following their last game.
Bienvenido Marañon of Spain is Ceres’ leading scorer with seven points in the tournament followed by Takumi Uesato with three.
For visiting Yangon United, its path to the knockout stage was a dominant one, finishing with a record of four wins, a draw and a loss and 13 points in Group G.
Midway into group play it already secured the top spot and a ticket to the next round and eventually wound up head and shoulders above its group mates, which included Philippine side Global Cebu FC.
Sekou Sylla, formerly of Global, and Maung Maung Lwin, meanwhile, are expected to play a key role for Yangon United against Ceres.
The first leg of the Ceres-Yangon United KO match will be beamed live over FOX Sports. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo