Getting feel of home at Rizal, Ceres sets date with dangerous Thai club
Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros brought the festive Panaad Stadium atmosphere to Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday night.
From the makeshift tunnel transported from Bacolod City that gave the players’ entrance a more dramatic feel, to the drumbeaters who turned the game into one big party, to their flag-waving supporters who showed up in huge numbers, it’s as if the Busmen never left home.
More importantly, even with their short preparation, the Busmen showcased their quality that proved enough to send them to a historic showdown with one of Thailand’s best clubs in the next round of the AFC Champions League preliminary stage.
“We got good energy from the crowd, but it was a really tough match,” captain Stephan Schrock said after the Busmen slipped past Shan United of Myanmar, 3-2, to keep their hopes alive of reaching the group stage of Asia’s most prestigious club competition.
OJ Porteria scored the marginal goal after assisting on Bienve Marañon’s classy first-half strike. Robert Lopez Mendy gave the Busmen the dream start with a fifth-minute strike.
Still, the Busmen’s defensive frailties and lack of fitness were exposed in the second where Shan grabbed two goals to set the stage for a nervy finish in front of 3,700 fans.
“I don’t think we are at the level where we want to be yet,” Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic said. “It was like a preseason game for us. It was three training sessions for us and that’s just not enough.”
They should expect an even tougher assignment in the next round against Port FC of Thailand on Tuesday night at PAT Stadium in Bangkok.
Port will be powered by Ceres’ former captain and national team standout Martin Steuble as well as Brazilian striker Heberty, one of the most lethal scorers in the history of the Thai League.
“We don’t know much about Port FC, but we have a few days to study them and work on the training ground,” Vidakovic said. “Slowly but surely, we will get to [the level] where we want to be.”
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