Ceres stuns Brisbane, sustains historic Champions League run
With another brave and clinical performance on enemy ground, Philippines Football League champion Ceres Negros pulled off one of the biggest upsets in AFC Champions League history, while boosting the country’s footballing reputation anew.
By stunning Brisbane Roar, 3-2, last Tuesday night in AFC Asian Cup Qualifying round at Queensland Sport And Athletic Stadium, the Busmen became the first Philippine club to surpass the second round of the continent’s top-tier club competition and set up a duel with Chinese powerhouse Tianjin Quanjian.
Another upset over Tianjin, a club that boasts of Brazilian star Alexander Pato and Belgian national team standout Axel Witsel, will send the Bacolod-based club in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in history.
Given little chance against the formidable Roar, the Busmen got two goals from Spanish attacker Bienvenido Maranon, before Filipino-Iranian midfielder Omid Nazari scored what turned out to be the decisive goal late in the second half.
Brisbane finished third in the tough A-League, which is considered one of the best league’s in the AFC, and boasted of three players with World Cup experience in Greek defender Avram Papadopulous and Australians Ivan Franjic and Brett Holman.
Roar also bundled out former league champion Global Cebu, 6-0, in the same stage last season.
And for awhile, Brisbane was in control with former Italian international Massimo Maccarone putting the hosts in front with a close range finish in the 35th minute.
But for a team that bucked odds in the AFC Cup last season, Ceres came up with a trademark response that put the hosts on its heels.
The Busmen got a deserved equalizer through Maranon just two minutes before halftime. Maranon then combined with Mike Ott in the 65th minute, before curling home from just inside the box.
Nazari tapped home from a scramble with 15 minutes remaining as Ceres weathered a late surge by Brisbane that included a goal from Franjic in the 87th minute.
Ceres’ victory augurs well to what has been a difficult time for club football in the country following the pullout of two clubs from the PFL – Meralco Manila and Ilocos United – in the past two weeks of the month.
Struggling to gain foothold with sponsors and fans, club football in the country found a worthy representative in the Busmen, whose meteoric rise has put the spotlight on Philippine football again.
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