Porteria shines as Ceres-Negros mounts strong Group G start
Midfielder OJ Porteria came ready—and so were his family and friends, about 30 of them—to provide Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros a boost in their 2020 AFC Cup debut.
With mom Jocelyn flying in from the United States to lead a contingent of supporters for her son’s club at Rizal Memorial Stadium, Porteria continued his inspired form for the Busmen, who ripped Cambodian champion Svay Rieng, 4-0, in their Group G opener late Tuesday night.
Reaping the rewards of his renewed commitment to improve his fitness, the 25-year-old set up one of two goals from Spanish striker Bienve Marañon and also provided the opener from Japanese midfielder Takashi Odawara in the 13th minute.
Porteria’s string of impressive performances in the early part of the season augurs well for his club’s progress and raises his chances of inclusion to the national team in the next international window in March.
“I’m just staying focused,” said Porteria, who has struggled to keep a place in the Azkals lineup in recent years. “I can’t be satisfied. We have to keep moving forward.”
Porteria’s consistency has been one of the hallmark of Ceres’ success so far this year. He also scored twice in the AFC Champions League qualifying match against Shan United and sparkled in the 1-0 upset of Thai powerhouse Port FC.
Last night, Porteria drew inspiration from his contingent of supporters that was part of the 4,146-strong crowd at the stadium.
“It’s just awesome to get this type of support at home,” said Porteria, whose support group in the stands included ex-Adamson basketball star Val Chauca and La Salle guard Jordan Bartlett.
The Busmen were in control for large parts of the match, but also needed the heroics of goalkeeper Roland Muller, who denied Brazilian Thiago dos Sanos from the penalty spot in the first half.
Welcoming Manny Ott back into midfield, the Busmen settled into a fine passing rhythm and winning the ball in dangerous areas each time they pressed.
Combining their quality with a relentless drive, the Busmen boosted to top spot in their group ahead of Bali United of Indonesia on goal difference. Bali dumped Than Quang Ninh, 4-1, at home in the other Group G match.
Risto Vidakovic knows he has holes to plug in his squad—with a lack of a natural left back among his needs. The coach, however, set up a 3-4-3 lineup that allowed them to keep the ball for long periods with technically superior players in Stephan Schrock, Ott, Odawara and Marañon knocking the ball around with confidence.
“This was a game that we had to take seriously, but of course we have to improve when we face the stronger teams in our group,” the Serbian said.
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