THE bad news is that Ceres-Negros FC lost at home to Vietnamese side Becamex Binh Duong, no thanks to a late goal in last Wednesday night’s AFC Cup match.
The good news is that the result won’t affect their advance to the Asean Zone semifinals, where they will face yet another Vietnamese side Ha Noi over two legs.
Ceres and Hanoi topped their respective groups to set up the semifinal encounter.
The Busmen will host the first semifinal leg at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod on June 18, while the return leg will be at the Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi on June 25.
In their last match in Group G Thursday, Ceres pretty much did everything right for 88 minutes before conceding the long-distance goal from number 10 striker Wander Luiz Dias.
The Brazilian dispossesed midfielder Josua Dutosme along the sideline and quickly lobbed a shot over a scampering goalkeeper Roland Muller, who was high up in no man’s land during the quick counter.
While the unfortunate Dutosme was only on the pitch for three minutes and had barely warmed up, Muller had been spectacular between the sticks, thwarting the Becamex assault repeatedly, until that 89th-minute goal.
Although Becamex made more attempts with 14 shots, seven of which were on target, compared to Ceres’s eight attempts with just three on target, the entire 90 minutes plus four of added time saw a seesaw battle between the two sides.
Becamex nearly drew first blood after it was awarded a penalty, only for veteran striker Nguyen Anh Duc to drive his shot wide to the relief of the Panaad crowd.
On the 50th minute, Wander Luiz headed the ball in the back of the net, only for the referee to call an offside.
On the other hand, Ceres were clearly denied a goal after Carli de Murga’s impressive effort following a mad scramble in the box was ruled an offside. The referee, though, upheld the linesman’s call.
The next 20 plus minutes was a relentless pursuit for that elusive goal, and those who were present at Panaad as well as ones who stayed glued to their TV sets watching the live telecast from ESPN 5Plus were rewarded with an exciting game of fast-paced, technical football.
But Becamex wanted the win more badly, as they needed the three full points to advance to the knockout rounds. And score an upset they did to silence the home crowd.
The Becamex players wasted no time wasting the last few seconds of regulation plus the four minutes of added time, flopping and feigning injuries to conclude what otherwise was a great display of football from both sides.
For now, Ceres gets a quick break before prepping up for the big semifinals encounter against Ha Noi.
Also, Southeast Asia’s top-ranked club based on the latest rankings also gets a breather following the Philippine Football Federation’s announcement that the domestic league will finally kick off on May 25, after awarding provisional licenses to Mendiola FC and Philippine Air Force FC.
But following a few postponements that raised eyebrows, it’s better to put off celebrating the league’s resumption until the first few matches kick off without a hitch.