An unrelenting second half from the undefeated Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros dealt the Azkals U22 their first loss in the Copa Paulino Alcantara with a 2-1 scoreline.
The first half started with the national squad showing a more positive approach with their pressing gameplay spearheaded by Chima Uzoka as the focal point in attack.
The Philippines 11 also came up with lively support from both wings as Mariano Suba and Yrick Gallantes providing the pace from both flanks.
After the quarter of an hour Ceres were able to settle a bit into their gameplay producing some half-chances which goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus was able to deal with.
The Young Azkals continued to push forth with their relentless pressing and pace with Jasrvey Gayoso also providing additional threat with an occasional chance.
The breakthrough arrived in the half hour mark with the pacy Yrick Gallantes finding the back of the net off a rebound from his own initial attempt with Gayoso as provider.
With the deadlock, broken the Under-22 side continued with their probing while Ceres came up, uncharacteristically, with a few opportunities with Maranon trying to create something from deep.
But Gallantes’ conversion proved to be the difference in the first half as time expired with the Philippine Team enjoying a slim lead heading into the break.
A different situation transpired early in the second half as Ceres-Negros quickly seized the proceedings by imposing themselves to great effect.
Robert Lopez Mendy suddenly came to life sparking his team up front. But it was Dylan De Bruycker who gave the Busmen a crucial lifeline in the 51st minute by burying the equaliser from an angle that beat U22 captain Pinthus for the first time.
Ceres-Negros seemed to have smelled blood after the leveller as Mike Ott saw an attempt go wide of the far post while Mendy had two chances in the in the 67th and 74th minute.
Four minutes before the 90th minute Ceres-Negros found the go-ahead goal as Mendy headed Angelo Verheye’s assist from the left flank.
The Young Azkals tried to claw back for a draw, attacking with much intent but it wasn’t meant to be with Ceres even having a chance to increase their lead late in the match only for Pinthus to come up with an excellent save to deny OJ Porteria from point-blank range.
Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC