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Monday, December 17, 2018

Villaflor: Ceres, Bayern falter at home

I DIDN’T follow the AFC Cup match between Ceres-Negros FC and Home United in Bacolod City, as I was kicking ball in a field in Lahug last Wednesday night. I was expecting Ceres to come out with at least a draw against the visitors from Singapore and top the group.

Instead, I was in for a shock when I checked the results: Home United snared the top spot from the Busmen with a 2-0 away win, despite being outplayed and outgunned by the hosts. Then again, this is football.

That’s the bad news. The good news? Runners-up Ceres still advance to the Asean Zonal semifinals along with Home United. And while the Singaporean club will face rugged Indonesian champions Persija Jakarta, Ceres will face an “easier” Yangon United of Burma.

It can be said that between Home and Ceres, the latter has the better chance of advancing to the Asean Zonal finals. Home will have a mountain to climb against Persija, which is considered the toughest among the four semifinalists considering its higher rank and massive hometown support that would prove crucial in the home-and-away two-legged semis.

Though Yangon shouldn’t be taken lightly, it did lose 2-1 to Global FC two weeks ago in the return leg, after blanking the PFL club 3-0 at home. (Global bade farewell to the tournament in style with a 3-1 win over Bali United also last Wednesday.)

Ceres-Negros and Yangon United will clash on May 9 at the Panaad Park and Stadium. The busmen will then fly to Myanmar for the second leg on May 16.

For Filipino football fans, that can only mean a busy month of May as far as international matches are concerned. As regional football takes a breather, all eyes are on Europe as the Champions League shifts into high gear.

In a tournament defined by amazing comebacks, the semifinals these past couple of days still managed to yield surprises. Liverpool blasted Roma 5-2 in Anfield. The margin was unexpected as this is the same Roma that booted out legends FC Barcelona 3-0 in the quarterfinals, despite losing 4-1 in the first leg.

But it was yesterday’s clash between two European giants in the other semis match that is creating ripples, though expectedly. Despite dominating the match in terms of possession and shots, drawing first blood, and playing at home, FC Bayern Munich lost 2-1 to defending back-to-back champions Real Madrid.

Josua Kimmich gave the home team the lead in the 27th minute, but two minutes before half-time, attacking fullback Marcelo equalized for Real via a majestic half-volley that skittered into the bottom corner. Half-time sub Marco Asensio snatched the win in the 56th off what the commentator described as a “defensive catastrophe” courtesy of Bayern.

Despite valiant efforts to level the score, Bayern just couldn’t crack the visitor’s stubborn defense led by goalkeeper Keylor Navas, giving Real two crucial away goals.

So Liverpool and Real carry huge advantages when they return for the semis second leg in the first week of May. But if the comeback lessons of the quarterfinals ought to be learned, no one should even consider counting out Roma and Bayern. Ever.


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