Ceres left with mountain to climb after away leg | Inquirer Sports
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Ceres left with mountain to climb after away leg

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 05:05 AM August 24, 2017

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.

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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.

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“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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