Ceres, Home United battle to draw in first leg
BACOLOD CITY – Ceres-Negros found Home United of Singapore tough to break down as it settled for a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their AFC Cup Asean zone final at Panaad Stadium.
New signing Blake Powell won a penalty and converted from the spot in the eighth minute to give Ceres the lead only for Isaka Cernak to equalize 15 minutes later for an important away goal for Home United.
From there, Home put up a resolute defensive stand, leaving the Busmen with little space to carve out chances the rest of the way. The absence of Bienve Maranon due to suspension proved to be a tough blow for Ceres as it struggled to threaten Home’s defense.
The result sets up an intruguing second leg on Wednesday at Jalan Besar Stadium where a goalless draw will be enough for the Singaporeans to advance on away goals. The Busmen need to score to stand a chance of retaining the Asean zone crown.
“We did what we can,” said Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic.
“They (Home) played defensive and there was no space to play. We wanted to play faster but its not easy. We will have 90 minutes to do it again next week, because I think it will be a similar game. But we will be stronger next week.”
Powell was brought down inside the area by Shakir Hamzah in the seventh minute after he was released by Patrick Reichelt. With a couple of feints before firing low, Powell grabbed his first goal in the competition just two and a half weeks after joining Ceres.
Shahril Ishak helped create the equalizer, heading the ball into the bar after he ghosted into the near post off a corner. Cernak was handed the easiest of chances to push the ball over the line, stunning the Panaad crowd.
“I would have traded that goal for a win,” said Powell.
Vidakovic introduced Curt Dizon and Jeff Christiaens at the break with the Busmen looking more threatening. Stephan Schrock, who was sidelined by an ankle sprain, came in the 75th minute, but missed a big chance just before stoppage time.
“He has the heart for the team,” said Vidakovic, referring to Schrock who has yet to recover from injury. “He was not prepared to play but we had to change something psychologically.”
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