FAILED to come up with the victory in the first leg of its 2019 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal semifinals on Tuesday night in Bacolod City, Ceres-Negros FC now looks to regroup and finish the job in the next game.

Held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Hanoi FC at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium, Ceres said it rued the result but that it remains positive that it would do better in the second leg in Vietnam on June 25.

The first leg was very competitive at the onset with the two teams fighting for early control of the match.

Both had their chances but the count would stand at nil-nil by the halftime break.

The tie was broken in the 57th minute when tournament scoring leader Bienvenido Maranon gave Ceres the go-ahead goal, 1-0, heading the ball off a cross from teammate Stephan Schrock.

But Hanoi would not stay down for long, scrambling to get back the point it gave.

The levelling goal came 10 minutes later with midfielder Pape Omar Faye finding the bottom of the net after being set up by Pham Thanh Luong.

The two squads battled it out the rest of the way, looking to get another point to hand them the win but none would come as time expired, leaving the teams settling for the draw.

While they are happy with their effort on home turf, the “Busmen” said they should have won the contest and now have to prepare hard for the next game.

“We are happy for the effort but we did not get the win. We have to prepare for the next game,” said Mr. Maranon in the post-match interview.

For Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic, while the road to advancing to the next round of the tournament was only made difficult by the draw, Ceres is still not out of it but needs to deliver in the second leg.

“Everything is still open. They (Hanoi) are a strong team and are playing at a high level. We have to match them,” the Ceres coach said.

The second leg of the Ceres-Hanoi zonal semifinals will be played at the Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo