Ceres left with mountain to climb after away leg
HISOR—Sensational at home in the AFC Cup, it looks like Ceres Negros will need to top all of those performances to survive this latest challenge.
The Busmen absorbed a 0-4 drubbing at the hands of Tajikistan champion Istiklol in the first leg of their inter-zone semifinal tie on Tuesday, leaving them with a mountain to climb at Panaad Stadium in three weeks time.
On a chilly night in the outskirts of the capital Dushanbe, Ceres, the Asean zonal champion, struggled to cope against a relentless Istiklol side that made the most of its physical advantage by hassling and harrying the visitors at Hisor Stadium.
“I thought we could have done better, but we will give them a good fight at home,” said Ceres midfielder Stephan Schrock. “We’re not giving up just yet.”
Panaad has been a fortress for visiting teams with Ceres coming away with big wins in the group stage including a 6-2 win over Hanoi and a 5-0 demolition of Tampines.
Istiklol got a goal each from Akhtam Nazarov and Romish Dhzalilov in the first half, before a second half brace from Manuchehr Dhzalilov ensured the Tajiks go into the second leg on Sept. 12 at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City with a comfortable advantage.
A 5-0 win at home will allow the Busmen to advance, but a 4-0 scoreline will send the tie to extra time. But with the way the Tajik champions dominated the first leg, it seems the Busmen would need a miracle for that to happen.
It was a tough reality check for the Busmen as they paid dearly for another sub-par away performance.
Nazarov opened the scoring by converting a penalty in the 25th minute after Kota Kawase brought down Dimitri Barkov inside the area. Romish Dhzalilov doubled the lead at the stroke of halftime with a clinical strike that left Roland Muller with no chance.
The Busmen hardly threatened in the first half as Istiklol controlled proceedings, pressing high and winning the ball early.
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