BACOLOD side Ceres seeks a fairy-tale ending to what has been an exhilarating campaign as it battles Pasargad for the title in the PFF Smart National Club Championship at Rizal Memorial Stadium tonight.
Unlike in previous matches where it played as the underdog, Ceres will have the role reversed in the 6:30 p.m. match with Pasargad fielding a shorthanded squad.
Hardly meriting a second look at the start of the tournament, Ceres, powered by a slew of Korean and British players, has been on a tear with victories against powerhouse United Football League sides Stallion, Global and Kaya.
Ceres flaunted its vast attacking weapons in the 3-1 victory over Kaya last Saturday that sent the Bacolod side to a first finals appearance in the tournament that replaced what was once known as the National Open.
Ceres co-owner Leorey Yanson believes his side will not get overwhelmed by the occasion of playing the final of the country’s most prestigious club tournament.
“We have prepared hard and we don’t want to let this chance slip,” said Yanson, also the chief backer of the Negros Occidental side that bagged the National Open title in 2006. “We represent the city and the province and we know winning the title for them will mean a lot.”
Pasargad reached the final following hard-fought victories over Army, General Trias and Green Archers Globe, which it put away after fighting back from two goals down and winning via a penalty shootout.
But victory in the semifinals came with a price as premature celebrations from key players Jaham Taher and Reza Ataei, who took off their jerseys in the heat of the moment, led to their dismissal and suspension for the next match. Charles Ujam and Emmanuel Mbata will also miss the match due to suspension.
Without Ataei, who thwarted two penalty kicks in the shootout, Pasargad will put defender Ricardo Padilla in between the posts.
Kaya and Green Archers dispute third place at 4 p.m.