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.