Stephan Schröck’s 52nd minute magic was enough to power Ceres-Negros towards a 1-0 win against Port FC in Bangkok last January 21 and setup an AFC Champions League Qualification Playoffs against FC Tokyo in Japan next week.
The busmen were presented an early threat moments after kick-off when OJ Porteria committed a foul, but Port failed to capitalize on the ensuing freekick.
Hosts and Thai FA Cup champions Port have been in command in the ball possession department in the early proceedings but the Filipino club were able to come up with a few promising moments as well.
But the Port Lions were able to come up with timely threats as the first chance forced Super Herrera to pull off a last ditch clearance, while an overhead attempt by Heberty in the tenth minute called Ceres keeper Roland Müller to action.
Ceres had the best chance in the first quarter of an hour as Bienvenido Maranon unleashed a shot on target inside Port’s box but goalkeeper Worawut Srisupa was equal to it.
After a few more moments, an almost identical play, this time involving Mike Ott who fed to Porteria gave Ceres another golden chance with a well-taken strike but Port’s net minder once again came up with a fine save.
The match experienced a few minutes of end-to-end action as Ceres-Negros eventually showed more attacking impetus, but both sides still remained in a deadlock.
Near the half-hour mark, Stephan Schröck committed a foul that merited a caution, but the free-kick that followed in favor of Port FC flew wide and off-target.
At around the 40th minute mark, a clever play from the hosts found Bordin Phala in the best position to unleash an effort and break the deadlock but the ball sailed high and wide to even bother Müller. That attempt have been the last big chance as half-time arrived with both teams goalless.
In the second half, defender Josh Grommen was introduced for Ceres-Negros, replacing the injured Super as action resumed with Port FC once again showing the initiative in the opening moments.
What followed though was a fortunate run of circumstances for Ceres-Negros as an awarded a corner kick was taken short towards Schröck whose teasing cross deceived Worawut, deflecting the ball into his own net as the visitors drew first blood in the 52nd minute and the busmen’s captain being awarded the goal.
The breakthrough seemed to have opened up the match as both sides had their share of half-chances. But it was the host team that tried to claw themselves back into the tie with some sustained level of pressure.
Port had their most promising attempt when Sergio Suarez was able to head the ball from close-range and unmarked but his effort just flew off target with Müller already beaten.
Despite Port’s constant knocking on Ceres’ door, with substitute Adisak Kraisorn seeing his goal-bound effort denied by the leg of Ceres defender Takashi Odawara near the 80th minute, the visitors were able to weather the storm to get a monumental win against the Thai FA Cup champions and setup a final qualifier playoff date against FC Tokyo in Japan.
Ceres-Negros will next face FC Tokyo away on January 28 for the final qualification for the AFC Champions League Group Stage.
Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC