AFC CUP: South China ousts Ceres-La Salle in extra time
BACOLOD CITY – Ceres-La Salle saw its 2016 AFC Cup campaign come to a heartbreaking end after a 0-1 defeat to South China of Hong Kong in extra time Tuesday night in their Round of 16 clash at Panaad Stadium.
Brazilian midfielder Luiz Carlos scored on an unstoppable volley in the 107th minute, leaving the home side and its fans stunned, while sending the Hong Kong powerhouse to the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
Ceres was left to rue its missed chances as Bienvenido Maranon and Adrian Gallardo were both guilty of bungling clear-cut opportunities in the second half.
Still, it was a respectable finish for a side that started playing in the United Football League just a couple of years ago. After earning an outright berth to the group stage for winning the UFL first division last season, the Bacolod side boosted its stock by going unbeaten in Group E that included wins over Tampines Rovers of Singapore and Sheikh Jamal of Bangladesh.
Ceres dominated the game for long periods in the second half with Maranon forced a reflex save from Man Fai Tsang six minutes after the break.
Three minutes later, it was South China’s turn to carve out an opportunity on the set piece with Chan Su Ki firing wide at the near post off a corner.
Ceres put the Hong Kong side under pressure with Ott cutting the ball back to an unmarked Maranon who once again shot wide off Tsang’s right side in the 56th minute. Gallardo was fouled by Chan Wai Ho at the edge of the area and Manny Ott’s goalbound free kick was cleared off the line by Milisic.
The South China goalkeeper was once again called into action in the 75th minute, palming away a close-range strike from Adrian Gallardo after a clever ball from Maranon, before South China responded on the other end with substitute Siu Kei Chu firing wide with the goal at his mercy.
South China finished regulation on the ascendancy with Hiu once again forcing a save from Michael Casas with five minutes remaining.
But as a penalty shootout loomed, Carlos produced the winner with a piece of individual brilliance.
Ceres coach Frank Muescan rued his side’s inability to finish off its chances.
“We didn’t capitalise on our goalscoring opportunities and the goal happened because of a mistake that sometimes we cannot avoid,” said Muescan. “They capitalised on that mistake and converted it into a goal. But we’re very confident we can do a lot better in the next campaign. We learned a lot from this experience. The AFC Cup is played at a high level and we feel we are almost there. We were so unlucky tonight, but that’s football.”
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