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OPINION: Ceres-Negros win ACL2020 campaign opener but concerns arise

Ceres-Negros FC pulled off possibly the best start early in its match against Shan United in the AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage, but a close final score showed concerns later in the tie as they head into their next challenge against a possibly much tougher Port FC.

As the Philippine domestic double champions continue their undefeated run and head to Bangkok in a week’s time to face Thailand’s domestic cup winners, here are some points of discussion on the busmen’s strengths and possible weaknesses to address as they bid to go further in their Champions League qualification campaign.

Immense frontline capability

Ceres-Negros showed their attacking might during their match against the Burmese champions as they dominated possession and peppered the visitors with attempts for the most part.

Robert Lopez Mendy, and Bienvenido Marañon got their goals, proving their striking ability for the busmen. With the additional firepower coming from attack-minded players such as Mike Ott and OJ Porteria (who also found the back of the net on top of a man of the match performance), and the creativity provided by Stephan Schröck and Hikaru Minegishi, Ceres were able to supply a sustained level of attacking verve and options that proved crucial in registering the goals they needed to get the required result.

Add to the fact that several options in attack and midfield ended up unused during the tie with the likes of creative midfielder Dylan de Bruycker and highly rated forward Mark Hartmann not seeing action in the fixture, shows that head coach Risto Vidakovic still has something up his sleeves heading into their next challenge in Thailand.

Seamless defense to attack transition

The busmen also demonstrated their signature knack for utilizing the ball well in a sense that building attacking plays from the defensive line seems to be fluid which gives significant credit to the defenders who are comfortable with the ball, and a very capable anchor provided by defensive midfielder Takashi Odawara.

Ceres’ ability to keep and distribute the ball well upfield from the backline is a testament to the club’s utilization of the midfield as an effective channel in helping create opportunities for the frontline.

Bannered by the leadership of veteran midfielder and captain Stephan Schröck who could operate as a “free radical” in the middle of the park with the role as one of the main catalysts on the offensive end, Ceres’ midfield definitely is its main power source that drives the entire black and yellow juggernaut forward.

Worrisome finishing

Obviously the first major concern shown by the busmen was their finishing, which leaves much to be desired. For the duration of the match, particularly in the first half, Ceres-Negros spurned some good chances that could have put them at least with a five goal-advantage and may have put the tie to end early, even if Shan United were able to register a few goals later on.

However, because of the wasted efforts, Ceres, can only maintain a two-goal lead in the match, making the business end of the clash against Shan United very much tense and in the balance when the visiting side were able to convert a second goal for a thrilling 3-2 finish with the hosts just doing enough to hold on for the win.

First-game jitters and rustiness may have come into play for Ceres’ forwards, understandably so in this situation, but with the icebreaking match already done, the need to be sharper is definitely paramount heading into their away match against a possibly tougher proposition against Thai FA Cup champions Port FC in less than a week’s time.

An unsettled defense

In the second half, Shan United were given hope when on several occasions, the Ceres-Negros backline was caught flat-footed, eventually leading to two goals by the Burmese champions that contributed for a nervy finish to the fixture.

With Carlie De Murga’s departure, the onus is on the remaining defenders and the newcomers to sync-in with each other and establish a reliable defense.

Super Herrera also seemed to have suffered a knock during the match that contributed to more lethargic marking, and if Super will not be 100 percent come the next match, it could be a main concern for coach Risto Vidakovic to maintain an effective line of defense.

Lack of match-fitness

Lastly it was obvious that the busmen came up short in sustaining the needed intensity from kickoff to the final whistle.

As the second half wore on, so did Ceres-Negros’ form. Such a dip in the busmen’s performance gave Shan United the opportunity to pounce on the slack they saw with the Burmese club’s pacy forwards, particularly Liberian Keith Nah, who marauded the host team’s flanks in the last throes of the match.

Such lack of fitness (which the coaching staff is probably anticipating already) is something that the team should be focused on heading into their match against Port FC in Thailand. Even though the Thai FA Cup champions may also have the same predicament having only a friendly match against Police Tero the past few days with the domestic league in Thailand yet to begin until February, it would be important for the Philippine champions to address this matter, easier said than done though, due to the domestic season is yet to begin in two months time.

Photo credit: Glen Charles Lopez / Ceres-Negros FC

Ceres-Negros squeeze past Shan United in five-goal thriller

Ceres-Negros FC stave off a late fightback to win their AFC Champions League Preliminary Round 1 match against Shan United FC, 3-2, last January 14 in Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The fixture began with hosts Ceres showing more attacking impetus in the early proceedings. However, an early stoppage was prompted when Super was clipped by a Shan United player in the second minute.

Soon enough, the attacking verve shown by Risto Vidakovic’s men was duly rewarded when Robert Mendy latched on to a Pika Minegishi assist from the left flank to break the deadlock and give his side a bright start in just the fifth minute.

In the eighth minute, OJ Porteria unleashed just a few yards outside the D with the intent of doubling the lead for the Philippine champions but his effort flew just wide of the right post.

A few moments later, Robert Mendy seemed to have found himself released by a well weighted pass from Stephan Schröck but the referee brandished a yellow card instead for a handball.

For the most part of the first half, the busmen were mostly on the ascendancy while visitors Shan United were mostly on the back foot, with chances limited on the few opportunities via the counter that were snuffed well by the hosts.

A free kick opportunity taken by Stephan Schröck in the 17th minute was well on-target but Shan United captain and goalkeeper Thiha Sithu anticipated the shot well for a timely intervention.

In the 21st minute of the proceedings a well-worked play by the Ceres frontline saw Bienve Marañon in a promising position to drive from range inside the box but his attempt flew just wide of the far post.

Three minutes later, a rare foray by Shan United into Ceres-Negros’ half came to naught as Roland Müller smothered what could have been a promising ball.

As the half hour mark arrived, a rare promising spell came in favor of Shan United as they were able to unearth a buildup play within the confines of Ceres’ penalty box but Super’s diligent marking was enough to break down the play.

Ten minutes before the half-time mark, Bienve was fouled by Shan defender Daniel Tagoe, who was cautioned with a yellow card by referee Ali Hasan Abdulnabi, but the ensuing freekick by the hosts was well managed by the visiting side.

In the 40th minute, Ceres finally doubled their lead as OJ Porteria crafted a well-placed cross for Marañon to tuck the ball into the back of the net from the center of the box as the break arrived with Philippines’ undefeated double champion enjoying a comfortable lead.

Three minutes after the restart, the hosts once again enjoyed a few gilt-edged chances as Mendy was released by a well-timed feed from Mike Ott, but his effort flew wide of the near post. Immediately, Porteria had a driven shot denied by the bar with Mendy’s follow-up going wide once again.

Ceres continued their relentless pursuit of the insurance goal as they dominated possession and crafted opportunities with Shan United crowding their box to weather the busmen’s barrage.

In the 56th minute, a Bienvenido Marañon effort off Mendy’s pass was denied by the bar as another chance came begging to put the tie well at rest in favor of the hosts.

A minute after the hour mark, Shan United may have seen their best chance of the match as an Abubakar freekick was deflected just narrowly wide of Müller’s far post.

In the 68th minute a scare came against Ceres as a defensive effort almost gifted the Burmese champions a consolation goal but Müller was able to come up with a timely save to keep the clean sheet.

But the visitors finally got a lifeline in the 73rd minute as Burmese forward Zin Min Tun headed in to pull a goal back as the defense was caught napping.

Ceres tried to pull off an immediate response, crafting at least three chances to no avail as the tie suddenly became more tense for both sides with fouls seemingly more aplenty.

A minute before the 80th minute mark, the hosts were able to restore their two-goal lead as OJ Porteria made sure of his attempt from close range as the match began to be more heated than ever before with cautions being given to both sides.

Three minutes before the 90th minute mark, Shan United reduced the deficit once again as Maximin scored with the hosts’ defense caught flat-footed. Not a minute has passed as the alarm bells rang once again for Ceres with Keith Nah curling just wide from the right flank from a counterattacking play.

Keith Nah turned to be the aggressor in favor of the Burmese side late in the match as his subsequent foray into the right flank forced a foul and a freekick which Nanda Kyaw was able to decently curl only to miss by a small margin.

Despite the late fightback and some nervous final moments, Ceres-Negros eventually got the crucial win to setup a match against Thai FA Cup champions Port FC in Thailand.

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Projected Starting XI: Ceres-Negros v Shan United

With PFL titleholders Ceres-Negros about to kick-off their season against Myanmar champions Shan United in the AFC Champions League 2020 preliminary match, here is how both teams’ starters may line up.

Ceres-Negros FC

Possible formations: 4-1-2-1-2 / 4-3-3

With a wealth of talents in their ranks, Coach Risto Vidakovic will have several options leading to some tough choices for his starters. But the busmen’s mentor might opt for a tried and tested midfield with a few changes up front given the club’s attacking reinforcements and the backline with Junior Muñoz and Jeffrey Christiaens’ return to fitness.

With a loaded squad, substitutions will be crucial for Ceres when it comes to the needed adjustments based on how the tie will pan out in the latter stages.

Shan United FC

Possible formations: 4-3-1-2/4-3-3/4-3-2-1

Shan United already played a competitive match domestically heading into their clash against Ceres-Negros and head coach might opt for the same set of starters with Liberian forward Keith Nah as the focal point in attack supported by Zi Min Tun and Maximin providing the creative element from the middle of the park.

An injury though to defender Nyein Chan from the recent league opener might merit a slight change for Shan United’s starting eleven, but it might just pave the way for Kyrgyz defender (of Ghanaian origin) Daniel Tagoe to slot in as a first-choice option in the backline.

Ceres-Negros vs Shan United kicks off on January 14 at 7:30PM in Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

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ACL2020 prelim: Ceres-Negros, Shan United to clash in 'Battle of the Undefeated'

It’s a battle between two undefeated clubs as Philippine double champions Ceres-Negros face Burmese counterparts Shan United in the AFC Champions League preliminary match on January 14.

Speaking during the prematch presser last Monday afternoon, January 13, coach Risto Vidakovic is anticipating a tricky and tough proposition ahead of their season opener.

“It’s going to be a very hard game, because it’s our first [match of the 2020 season]… I cannot say that we are ready 100%. We just had three training sessions. It’s the first game for us and nobody is [match] fit enough. But we have to forget all of the excuses. I’m not expecting from my players [as] it’s impossible to be prepared [in this situation]. But we want to win and I’m expecting everyone to give 100% on the game, that’s all I need [from them].

Ceres-Negros FC: Defender Sean Kane (left), Head Coach Risto Vidakovic (right)

Meanwhile defender Sean Kane also expressed the same sentiments as his mentor given the match being their first for the year’s set of campaigns but the Ceres stalwart believes that they have a chance if they execute well and maximize the talents at hand.

“We know how coach wants us to play. I’d say that we just [need to] follow the plan and try to get the new players on-board as soon as possible. We take tomorrow and prepare as well as we can.”

Ceres- Negros strengthened their squad for the upcoming 2020 season with the addition of forward Mark Hartmann, midfielders Hikaru Minegishi and Arnie Pasinabo, and defender Joshua Grommen in their already talented team.

But visiting side Shan United will definitely be no walk in the park as they are bannered with local standouts Zin Min Tun and Dway Ko Ko Chit with reinforcements provided by their foreign contingent with Kyrgyz defender Daniel Tagoe, Ivorian midfielder Maximin, Senegalese midfielder Abubakar and highly rated Liberian forward Keith Nah.

Shan United: Goalkeeper Thiha Sithu (left), Head Coach Aung Naing (center)

“For this match, we haven’t made big preparations [as] our league started a few days ago, so we already played one match locally. One of our key defenders got injured in that match, but we will still try our best to get a good result tomorrow,” said Shan United FC head coach Aung Naing.

Meanwhile goalkeeper Thiha Sithu already is familiar with the hosts and knows the significance of the task at hand, yet is still optimistic of his team’s chances.

“We have played Ceres-Negros three or four times already so we now that they are a very good team. We will play with respect for our opponents and at then play with unity. Hopefully we get a good result tomorrow.”

What makes the matchup interesting is the fact that both teams are to face each other coming from their successful campaigns last season without suffering a single defeat in their respective leagues.

“We have a good level of confidence heading into this match based on last year’s [undefeated domestic league campaign], but this year will be different and Ceres is a very good team. Last year we lost against them [in the AFC Cup] both home and away, but this year we will try to win,” added coach Aung Naing.

Ceres-Negros of the Philippines host Shan United of Myanmar on Tuesday, January 13, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30PM. Admission is free while the match will be shown live on 5Plus while a delayed same day telecast will be broadcasted via One Sports at 10PM.

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Ceres-Negros anticipate arduous AFC Champions League 2020 campaign

Philippine football’s domestic double champions, Ceres-Negros FC, are once again set to embark on their continental campaign for 2020 by facing Myanmar’s national league titleholders Shan United in the AFC Champions League preliminary round one match this January 20, 2019 at the Rizal Stadium.

Already qualified for the AFC Cup Group Stage, the Busmen are looking to take their chances with the hopes of qualifying for the group stage of Asian club football’s highest level of competition.

But it won’t be a walk in the park as stated by Head Coach Risto Vidakovic during the Philippine Sportswriters’ Association Forum last January 8 when it came to their first assignment Shan United given both competing clubs are virtually playing their first matches of their respective seasons with new key player acquisitions.

“This game is very important for us. If we want to go to the next round, we have to fight for it,” shared the Serbian mentor who was also quick to provide on how tricky the task at hand is going to be for his squad.

“[But] nobody knows what is going to happen [in the match] because both teams are going to play their first games [of the season]. Nobody knows how they are and how we are [tactically]. We’ll [have to] see.”

Ceres team captain Stephan Schröck stated that the team’s mindset is on winning their qualification campaign opener.

“It’s always on winning. Regardless if we are prepared or if we have a short time together or long time together (as a team), it’s always about winning… The mindset is prepared. Let’s see if the body will follow.”

Burmese club Shan United are coming into the match as Myanmar’s representatives after winning the 2019 National League undefeated, bannered by local standout forwards Zin Min Tun and Dway Ko Ko Chit. But their crucial acquisition in the offseason is Liberian striker Keith Nah who just played for rivals Ayeyawady United the previous campaign, scoring 10 goals.

Ceres-Negros have just completed getting the services (as of this writing) of Azkals striker Mark Hartmann who previously played for Thai club Nakhon Ratchasima, winger Hikaru Minegishi (formerly of JL Chiang Mai United), defender Josh Grommen (from Sukhothai FC), and Arnie Pasinabo (from Kaya FC) as reinforcements for the upcoming season. Meanwhile the current confirmed departures from the Philippine champions are midfielder Miguel Tanton, team captain Carlie De Murga (rumored to be heading to Thai club Chonburi) and youngster Charles Barberan.

If Ceres-Negros successfully get a positive result against Shan United, they proceed to preliminary round 2 where they will face Thai FA Cup champions Port FC in a week’s time in Thailand who have former Ceres captain and Azkals defender Martin Steuble in their ranks. And if ever the Busmen get through against Port, they go to Japan to face J1 league powerhouse Kashima Antlers as their final hurdle towards breaking through the Champions League group stage.

Ceres-Negros vs Shan United AFC Champions League preliminary round one kicks off  in Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on January 14, 2019 at 7:30PM.

PH youth club Malaya FC enjoys banner 2019

(Via Malaya FC)

Malaya FC can consider 2019 a fruitful year considering the Youth Football League (YFL) season 3’s conclusion, by winning the championship in four of seven age divisions in the country’s premier youth league.

In finals matches played over four weekends, Malaya FC emerged as champions in the under-11, under-15, under-17, and under-19 categories; and 2nd runners-up in the under-13 age group.

“Malaya really dominated the YFL this season,” said Joseph Gensaya, YFL technical head as he awarded the YFL championship for the fourth time to a Malaya FC squad last December 8 at the Circulo Verde pitch in Quezon City.

Malaya FC U17 were the latest to bag the YFL championship, after fashioning a 4–2 win against Mendiola FC. The Golden Glove award went to Malaya keeper Lance Jeter Bencio; Most Valuable Player award went to striker Carlos Maniscan.

The day before, Malaya FC U15 comprehensively beat Kaya FC Elite 5–0 to win their division convincingly.  Malaya keeper Gabriel Anthony Cadisal was given the Golden Glove award, while defender Mark Maghinay Palallos was named MVP.

In the U11 category, Malaya FC triumphed 3 – 1 against Kaya FC Yellow to bag the championship, capping an undefeated run throughout the four-month tournament. Malaya keeper Kyle Castillo was awarded Golden Glove honors; midfielder Kenneth Dela Cruz was named MVP. 

Leading the way for the younger teams by winning the first championship of the YFL season were Malaya FC U19 with a 4–2 mastery of Mendiola FC. The Golden Glove award went to keeper Kristian Harald Bumatay, while MVP award went to striker Kieth Absalon who suited up as defender in their last two matches.

En route to winning their YFL titles, the Malaya FC teams also picked up podium finishes at the Borneo Cup 2019 held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: U17 were first runners-up, while U15 and U11 were 2nd runners-up in the AFC Tier 3 tournament.

William Gueridonn for U17, Yves Blanc for U15, Jovert Ayuban and Jake Morallo for U11, and Marvin Dava for U19 were the coaches of the winning Malaya teams, with Roland Sadia as goalkeeping coach.

“It’s been a banner year for Malaya FC, with the teams posting their best finish yet in both the YFL and Borneo Cup,” said Malaya FC secretary-general Mark Duane Angos. “The players in these teams have been training and playing together for at least 2 years – with some in U17 playing together for about 6 years now – and it shows in the results.”

However, Angos said there were also some eye-openers this year for Malaya FC.

“One is the need to level up our skills to be able to compete in higher-tiered tournaments in the region. While we have done well at the Borneo Cup, we’re aware that we need to raise our game in order to be competitive in ASEAN youth football,” he said. “That’s what we’re aiming for and focusing on this coming year.” 

Malaya Football is a non-profit organization dedicated to using the sport of football for community development. The club gives children from underserved communities the chance to learn and play football through free regular and continuous training, and participation in highly competitive leagues such as the YFL as well as local and international tournaments.

Malaya FC is a founding member of the YFL and a member of the Cavite Football Association (CAFA).

Photo Credit: Malaya FC and Youth Football League

LaLiga, clubs Valencia CF, RCD Mallorca & Real Valladolid in Manila for SPIA Conference

Via LaLiga

Representatives from LaLiga and its clubs, Valencia CF, RCD Mallorca and Real Valladolid CF are going to be in Manila this week to take part in the SPIA Asia international conference, which will be held on December 2 and 3 at the Grand Hyatt in Bonifacio Global City.

This year’s event is the fifth edition of the sports industry congress that will see 600 delegates and 60 international speakers come together to share knowledge and experiences about the latest trends in sports marketing, business strategy and international development.

The football industry will take centre stage, with LaLiga and its clubs once again to be showcased as role models thanks to their successful growth and internationalization strategies.

Maheta Molango, RCD Mallorca CEO; David Espinar, head of the president’s cabinet at Real Valladolid; and Josep Borrell, Valencia CF‘s commercial strategy coordinator, will offer those in attendance an insight into the various internationalization strategies undertaken by their clubs, their links with and future plans for the Asian continent, as well as their relationships with their global fans and partners.

A number of LaLiga outfits have interests and ties with Asia through the presence of players from the continent such as, playmaker Takefusa Kubo of Japan, who’s currently on loan at Mallorca and Valencia’s South Korean forward Kang-in Lee. Meanwhile, Real Valladolid were one of the first clubs to establish such a link after they signed Japanese striker Shoji Jo back in 2000.

The institution will also be represented during the talks at the event, with Ivan Codina, LaLiga‘s managing director for South-East Asia, Japan, Korea and Australia; and Almudena Gomez, LaLiga delegate in the Philippines, set to deliver presentations. The pair are part of LaLiga’s comprehensive network of staff based across the globe. The organisation will also take part in a panel discussion which will focus on trends in the development of the football industry across the Asian leagues and how leagues contribute to the progress of the game at a local level, as well as LaLiga’s strategy and projects in the region. 

The SPIA Asia 2019, organized by MMC Sportz and supported by Tourism Promotions Board Philippines will also be graced by a special guest in the shape of Real Valladolid President, Ronaldo “Il Fenomeno” Nazario De Lima, who will take to the stage on 3 December during the SPIA Asia “Straight Talk” before being awarded the SPIA Asia “Sport & Beyond” award.

Meanwhile, the summit will conclude with the annual SPIA Asia Awards Gala, which recognizes and celebrates excellence of the Asian sports industry. 450 submission from 47 eligible countries have been received to recognize the top achievers in 25 award categories including of the “Best Asian Sportsman & Sports Woman of the Year” and the “Best Asian Sports Team”. LaLiga has been shortlisted in Asia Top 10 in the accolade for the “Best Influencer Marketing Campaign of the Year”.

This year sees SPIA Asia 2019 will take place from December 2-3, 2019 at the Grand Hyatt Manila as part of the official activities of the 30th South East Asian Games.

In terms of LaLiga’s presence in the continent, the institution currently boasts three offices throughout in Asia (Singapore, China and India), whilst a team of 12 delegates are based across the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Australia, amongst other territories. In addition to having secured local sponsors and offering tailored social media accounts in several Asian countries, LaLiga has also signed various agreements with a number of local leagues and federations.