Ceres’ Champions League run ends at the hands of FC Tokyo
Ceres-Negros’ impressive run in the AFC Champions League came to an end in Tokyo last Tuesday night as the Busmen absorbed a 0-2 defeat to FC Tokyo in cold and wet conditions at Ajinomoto Stadium.
Second half goals from Sei Muroya and Brazilian striker Adailton snuffed out the Busmen’s hopes of another upset as the Philippines Football League champions dropped to the AFC Cup for the third straight year.
Even after falling at the final hurdle, Ceres’ performance provided another highlight to a struggling club football scene in the country as it took down Thai powerhouse Port FC on its way to the duel in Tokyo.
On the cusp of reaching the group stage for the second time in three years, the Filipino club bravely fought to hold off the Japanese powerhouse in the first half. It helped that a waterlogged pitch stunted Tokyo’s attacking play.
Ceres also had an undermanned side, missing Stephan Schrock due to suspension and Mike Ott and Sean Kane to injuries.
That meant Josh Grommen, Dylan De Bruycker and Angelo Marasigan were inserted into the starting lineup by coach Risto Vidakovic, who set out with a 5-4-1 formation.
Ceres rode its luck and the brilliance of Roland Muller in the first half with the goalkeeper denying Leandro with a triple save in the first half after Super Herrera’s botched clearance.
Tokyo finally took the lead three minutes after half-time when Muroya’s effort slipped from Muller’s grasp.
The Busmen also gained a man advantage in the last 10 minutes when Taichi Hara was sent off for an elbow on Takashi Odawara.
Coach Risto Vidakovic sent in James Younghusband for Angelo Marasigan to provide an aerial threat, but the veteran was just ahead of the ball when Mendy flicked it into his path after a free kick.
Ceres threw more players forward in search for an equalizer, but the Busmen got caught on the counter in the 89th minute with Adailton providing an exquisite finish from just outside the box.
The Busmen are headed to the group stage of the AFC Cup, where it will meet Quang Thinh of Vietnam, Bali United and the winner of the playoff between Master 7 of Laos and Svey Rieng of Cambodia. Ceres will host the winner of the playoff on Feb. 11.