SO which draw was worse: 0-0 or 2-2?
Some say that both results from the country’s two representatives to the 2020 AFC Cup are not good for one reason:These were home matches that both teams should have won.
And like any group stage match in any international competition, the prevailing wisdom has it that all things being equal, home matches give the home team several advantages, so any other result is bad.
One argument says it is during home matches that the team as host is most prepared, most rested, and most familiar with the football pitch, plus it enjoys the most support thanks to the home crowd. So when Ceres Negros FC and Kaya FC Iloilo could come up with mere draws in their second game group assignments, there was a sense of bewilderment among those who follow Philippine club football.
Ceres was expected to win at the Rizal Memorial Stadium against Vietnamese side Than Quang Ninh last Tuesday, following the Busmen’s masterful 4-0 conquest of Lao side Svay Rieng also at home in its first outing.
The logic put forward was that Ceres is the number one club in Southeast Asia, ergo it must win against any team in its group, how much more on home soil. But such reasoning ignores a couple of vital details: Than Quang is top three in the Vietnamese league and that Ceres has struggled in its past three encounters with highly technical Vietnamese clubs in the AFC Cup, as what I pointed out in my previous column.
True enough, with the 2-2 result against a technical Than Quan side in an exciting tactical match, the Busmen still just can’t crack the Vietnamese code.
Kaya, too, wasn’t spared from a similar reasoning behind “in-the-bag” home games: Having won its away match 2-0 against Myanmar side Shan United, Kaya was saddled with the expectation of winning at home against Tampines Rovers, never mind if the Singapore Premier League runners-up are no pushovers.
The reality? Tampines dominated Kaya in last Wednesday’s match, and one might say it was a flustered, tentative Kaya that was lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw. And yet even if Ceres and Kaya didn’t lose, how those draws must have felt like losses. Then again, this is football. One can only feel for both clubs who must be thinking they have let their Filipino followers down.
But with one point each from the drawn games, Ceres and Kaya still lead their respective groups with four points apiece.
Ceres tops Group G ahead of Svay Rieng and Indonesian side Bali with three points each, and Than Quang with one point. Kaya is ahead of Tampines, which also has four points, by goal difference, followed by Indonesian side PSM Makassar with three points, and Shan with no points to show.
Not a perfect start for Ceres and Kaya, but crucial just the same.
Do the first two games set the tone for the clubs’ remaining four matches in the group stage?
It’s hard to tell, but definitely none of Ceres or Kaya would wish to be in Than Quang’s or Shan’s shoes right now.