THREE-TIME Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros FC tests the mettle of the national under-22 team in Copa Paulino Alcantara action today at the Biñan Football Stadium in Laguna.

Perched at second spot in Group A entering the match with a point, the “Busmen” try to seize to the top spot from the Azkals U22 (three points) in their 4 p.m. engagement.

Ceres was held to a 2-2 draw in its Cup opener by Mendiola FC 1991 on Oct. 26 and is looking to have a favorable result this time around.

Against Mendiola, Robert Lopez Mendy got the Busmen to a solid start, connecting on two goals in the fourth and 31st minute to hand his team a 2-0 lead early.

But they would not be able to hold on to the lead as Mendiola fashioned out a fight back.

Mendiola was able to trim its deficit into half, 2-1, just before the break (45+1’) with Hamed Hajimahdo providing the goal.

Papuh Corsame then levelled the count at 2-2 in the 64th minute.

With the outcome of the match still open, the teams tried to go for the go-ahead but their attempts fell short, forcing them to settle for the draw and a point each from the match.

The U22 had it auspicious in its first game in the Copa, carving a 1-0 victory over Green Archers United FC on Oct. 27.

Chima Uzoka provided what turned out to be the winning goal in the 51st minute off a header from a corner kick.

The Philippine team is using its Cup participation as part of its preparation for the 30th Southeast Asian Games which the country is hosting beginning late next month.

Also playing today are Mendiola and GAU in a Group action at the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa City, Batangas, at 4 p.m. and Stallion Laguna FC and Philippine Air Force FC in Group B at 7 p.m. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo