Ceres smashes Bali United in ‘crowdless’ stadium
For someone who loves playing in front of big crowds, Ceres-Negros star Stephan Schrock felt weird to look at the Rizal Memorial Stadium grandstand with only club personnel and a handful of media in attendance on Wednesday night.
The clash against Liga 1 champion Bali United of Indonesia was supposed to be the most anticipated in Ceres’ AFC Cup Group G schedule, but a directive to hold the match behind closed doors as precaution against the coronavirus (COVID-19) gave the duel a different dynamic.
“As much as we would have loved to play in front of our fans, we understand that this is a global concern,” said Schrock, who was involved in three goals of a 4-0 rout of the Indonesian side. “It’s not ideal because you play for the fans to enjoy, but the safety of everyone is more important than a football game.”
OJ Porteria’s smashing opening goal, a brace from Bienvenido Marañon and Robert Lopez Mendy’s first strike in the competition, sealed maximum points for the Busmen, who inched closer to the knockout round for the fourth straight year.
Even with its big reputation as a top club in football-mad Indonesia, Bali set out with a more cautious approach, defending deep and forcing Ceres to find gaps in its back line.
“This wasn’t an easy game because the other team was defending deep and we had to really find space to create opportunities,” Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic said.
With three away matches coming up, the Busmen seem primed to reach the knockout stage for the fourth straight season.
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