AFC Cup: Ceres draws with Selangor
BACOLOD CITY—Ceres-La Salle made sure there was no heartbreak for this football-loving city on this historic night.
Spanish striker Adrian Gallardo struck three minutes from time as a resilient Ceres-La Salle side rescued a point in its AFC Cup debut after a 2-2 draw with Selangor FA of Malaysia at a jampacked Panaad Stadium here.
Despite dominating the match for long periods, the Bacolod side still needed a late goal that came when Gallardo headed a cross from Stephan Schrock in the 87th minute.
Schrock heralded his home debut with a quality strike that put Ceres on top in the 18th minute, sending the 8,000-strong crowd into a frenzy.
But the lead lasted just 16 minutes as Selangor’s Argentinian striker Mauro Olivi equalized by pouncing on a moment of indecision from Ceres goalkeeper Mike Casas.
Casas helplessly watched the ball roll into the back of the net after his clearance bounced off a marauding Olivi.
Selangor took the lead on the hour mark when Hafiz Kamal curled a free kick to the top corner beyond Casas’ flailing arms.
Chasing an equalizer, Ceres threw more men forward with Schrock at the heart of every attack. Manny Ott and Bienvenido Marañon both came close after firing just wide following good play on the wing from Patrick Reichelt.
Reichelt also missed a gilt-edged chance after he was released by Schrock as Ceres looked like it was struggling to cope with the pressure of playing before the biggest crowd at Panaad since the Philippines battled Mongolia in the 2011 AFC Challenge Cup.
Refusing to wilt, Schrock ran all the way to the end line before crossing to Gallardo, who was well-positioned to head the ball home, giving the home side a crucial point against one of the strongest teams in the group.
Meanwhile, national football team coach Thomas Dooley hopes the Azkals get enough time for their buildup as they aim for a strong finish to their World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifying campaign next month.
The Azkals hope to keep third place in Group H that will reward them with a spot in the next round of qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup. They have two games left with a tough game in Tashkent against Uzbekistan on March 24. Their last game will be against North Korea in Manila on March 29.
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