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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

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AFC Cup TOP HITMAN: Ceres-Negros’ Bienvenido Marañon

Ceres-Negros FC’s marksman Bienvenido Marañon has been certified as the top goalscorer with 10 conversions under his belt in the recently concluded 2019 AFC Cup continental football competition.

The Spanish forward’s efforts helped the Bacolod-based Busmen and reigning domestic league champions reach the ASEAN Zonal Semifinals.

Virtually Unstoppable

Marañon scored in almost all of the Filipino club’s fixtures in the group stage, save for one match, highlighted by his two hat-tricks with the first one against Vietnamese outfit Becamex Binh Duong held in Vietnam last March 12 that ended in a 1-3 win, followed by another stellar performance also in an away fixture against Shan United last April 16 that concluded to a 0-5 triumph.

Ceres-Negros’ continental campaign was only halted in its tracks by Hanoi FC in the ASEAN Zonal Semifinals knockout phase, but it wasn’t without a fight with the eventual top marksman scoring with a diving header in the 57th minute against the Vietnamese side in the first leg that was held last June 18 in Panaad Stadium.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

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After ‘Invincible’ league campaign, Ceres players hint at winning double

Fresh from winning the 2019 Philippines Football League trophy last October 19 without suffering a loss, Ceres-Negros might be gearing up for total domination of the domestic football with players hinting at an all-out campaign for the Copa Paulino Alcantara.

The initial celebrations of the club may just have ended as of this writing, which will be followed by a much deserved rest, relaxation and recovery after achieving a monumental feat in the history of Philippine professional football, but some of the key players are already starting to set their sights on the cup campaign and really challenge to win an unprecedented “double”.

Spanish striker, Bienvenido Maranon, who top-scored for The Busmen with 30 goals already provided his intent on winning the Copa Alcantara believing that that the club has the ability to take it all this 2019.

“We have to enjoy (winning this title) for one week then, it’s time to prepare for the cup… Ceres is not gonna play (just) to lose or to draw. We got to have to play to win everything because Ceres deserves to win everything.”

Meanwhile, Robert Lopez Mendy of Senegal returned to the PFL midseason with a bang, immediately finding his form for his new club will look to maintain his scoring touch to win the Copa Alcantara, a title in which he helped his former team Kaya FC Iloilo win last year through his late strike.

“It was an exciting season. After securing the league title we wanted to finish unbeaten and we were able to achieve it. It was a good experience.

“My individual target is always the same which is to score goals. That’s my job. But I think for the team, it’s the same objective which we have to do which is to go out there and win whatever we can win.”

Another newcomer to the club, one of the only two Azkals “centurions”, James Younghusband also personally looks forward to the next cup campaign after the team concludes its league championship celebrations when asked about going all-out.

“Sure, you always want to go all-out (to win the cup. But) it’s all up to the coach (Risto Vidakovic). He’s the mastermind and he’s the one who makes the great decisions… But now we’re just enjoying the celebrations the moment that we’ve won the league then we’ll have a short break and then (the team) will come together and focus on the cup.

“As for me personally I’m looking forward to (the Copa Paulino Alcantara) especially playing against the (Philippines) Under-22.”

Ceres-Negros might have the ingredients this 2019 to swoop for two trophies, a first-ever in Philippine professional football era if they pull it off successfully, given their squad depth.

But how the team competes in the tournament will depend overall on the main objectives and approach from Ceres Head Coach Risto Vidakovic if winning the cup will be a top priority given that his team are in for another grinding set campaigns as AFC Champions League qualification or AFC Cup are now in-line after their successful domestic league championship run.

A total of eight teams will vie for the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara which will have its draw on October 20. The first match-day is set on October 26.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League

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Invincibles: 2019 champions Ceres-Negros achieve undefeated PFL season

League champions Ceres-Negros were able to attain what has not been done before in Philippine professional football as they conclude the 2019 domestic campaign without suffering a defeat.

The stellar achievement was confirmed when The Busmen scored three unanswered goals against league runners-up Kaya FC Iloilo with OJ Porteria, Bienvenido Maranon, and James Younghusband finding the back of the net in top two clubs’ final face-off in the league season that was held in Aboitiz Pitch Lipa last October 19.

The match was built up to be champions Ceres-Negros final hurdle towards an undefeated season, while runners-up Kaya are being billed as the last team with the chance to tarnish the three-time champions’ campaign by inflicting their only defeat.

The first half unfolded with both clubs presented with some promising chances, but 45 minutes have passed with both sides heading to their respective dugouts empty-handed with a goalless stalemate.

However, come the second half, Ceres-Negros were able to turn-up the proceedings a notch higher. Eventually The Busmen were rewarded as OJ Porteria broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute with a header off captain Stephan Schrock’s assist.

A sort of late collapse by Kaya unfolded late in the match as Bienvenido Maranon doubled Ceres’ lead in the 90th minute followed by a third by substitute James Younghusband as the memorable evening and the floodlights smiled in favor of the Bacolod-based side achieving an undefeated season.

The almost year-long domestic front does not end though with the league championship as Ceres Head Coach Risto Vidakovic’s men have another chance to further achieve an unprecedented milestone if they can win the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara which will begin soon.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League

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PFL 2019: Battles still up for grabs after Ceres 3-peat

Ceres Negros have just clinched their third straight Philippines Football League (PFL) title after getting a 3-1 win against Green Archers United last October 12, further stamping their dominance in the country’s top flight.

Although the race for the championship is already done and dusted after Ceres’ Angelo Marasigan and Bienvenido Maranon cancelled a John Celiz breakthrough goal for Green Archers United, here are still some of the things to look forward to for the remainder of the PFL 2019 season.

WILL CERES CONCLUDE THE LEAGUE CAMPAIGN AS INVINCIBLES?

The champions-elect no doubt had, for the third straight time, been in ruthless form as they set their hands on the league trophy without suffering a loss.

However, with the reward already in the bag and still a few matches left, can the Busmen sustain the momentum in avoiding a defeat and achieve the unprecedented invincible tag?

It seems very possible feat to achieve given the quality of the Bacolod-based club, but it will depend on Coach Risto Vidakovic’s approach and his wards’ hunger to reach an even greater milestone in this already successful season if they will continue stepping on the gas pedal until the last whistle of their final match.

And, if ever Ceres-Negros do fail to get a point in any of their remaining fixtures, which team (or teams) between Global, Mendiola or Kaya will earn the distinction of defeating the three-time champions this season?

Now, that is something to set one’s sights.

WHO WILL END UP AS LEAGUE TOP SCORER?

As of the moment, Kaya FC Iloilo target-man Jordan Mintah is in the driver’s seat the league’s best scorer for the season with 32 goals, but not far behind is Ceres-Negros hotshot Bienvenido Maranon with 27 conversions.

Both forwards are in rich vein of form respectively, converting chances presented to them into precious goals almost at will. Maranon though will relish the possibility of getting the individual achievement on top of the team trophy to further stamp Ceres’ stellar campaign while Jordan will definitely try to finish strong after his team missed out once again in stealing the title out of Ceres’ grasps.

A battle for individual honors that shouldn’t be missed is definitely being realized and whatever the outcome, this duel between tried and tested forwards from two of the best clubs in the country in recent times will go down as a memorable one.

WHICH LOCAL PLAYER WILL END UP SCORING THE MOST GOALS?

As of the moment, a three-way battle between Mendiola’s Jim Ashley Flores (9 goals) and Stallion teammates, Jesus Melliza (11 goals) and Fitch Arboleda (9 goals) is happening as they vie for who is going to end up as the best scoring local player.

Stallion may have less matches left in the campaign though compared to Mendiola, but in the end, it all boils down on who can maintain their scoring touch in front of goal.

The feat may prove crucial if taken into a much bigger context, as it may play a role when it comes to future national team call-ups, if any of these players are being shortlisted to be part of in the near future.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League

PFL sees century of goals breached as leadership for ‘top hitman’ takes shape

Ruthless and lopsided victories by Ceres Negros and Green Archers United this past weekend have racked up the total number goals scored in the Philippines Football League 2019 to 110 breaching the century-mark as we revisit who, at the moment, are the top scorers in the league.

With three matches completed recently, Ceres Negros scored a dozen of unanswered goals to beat hapless Air Force accompanied by a tightly contested 1-0 win by Kaya against Stallion in a simultaneous fixture that transpired last Saturday, July 13. The two matches were then followed by a 9-0 dismantling of Global FC by in-form Green Archers United the following day, Sunday.

The massive 22-goal haul produced during the course of the weekend has put the current PFL season’s goals tally to well beyond the 100-mark as we look at who are the league leaders when it comes to shaking the back of the net for their respective clubs. Of course, we will also tackle the top performing brands of boots so as to see if there are any surprise names that put their name on the Philippine pro-football map.

PFL TOP SCORERS

Tied at 5th Place: 3 Goals

  • Jovin Bedic (Kaya FC Iloilo)
  • Nathan Alquiros (Stallion Laguna)
  • Fitch Arboleda (Stallion Laguna)
  • Chima Uzoka (Stallion Laguna)
  • Jimuel Ariola (Green Archers Utd)
L-R: Arboleda, Bedic, Alquiros, Uzoka, Ariola

Tied at 4th Place: 4 Goals

  • Curt Dizon (Ceres Negros)
  • Marvin Angeles (Green Archers United)
  • Stephan Schröck (Ceres Negros)
L-R: Dizon, Schröck, Marvin Angeles

Tied at 3rd Place: 5 Goals

  • Mike Ott (Ceres Negros)
  • John Celiz (Green Archers United)
L-R: Mike Ott, John Celiz

2nd Place: 9 Goals

  • Jordan Mintah (Kaya FC Iloilo)

Marañon sits undisputed on the driver’s seat

On top of the standings is none other than Bienvenido Marañon.

Ceres-Negros’ lethal striker has already beaten the opposing defences 16 times making him the only one to get to double digits when it comes to scoring goals at this moment in the on-going season.

His telepathic understanding with talismanic midfielder Stephan Schröck where the Filipino international has been the provider for the Spaniard has been the biggest key producing seven of those goals from that tandem alone.

With the PFL 2019 still far from over, it can be expected that at this form, Marañon could score much more and may be well on his way to top the charts at the campaign’s conclusion.

TOP PERFORMING BOOTS

A total of seven football shoe brands have found the back of the net in the ongoing PFL 2019 season. Before we look into the top 3 most lethal footwear in the league here are the ones that made the list:

  • New Balance (1 goal)
  • Kipsta/Decathlon (1 goal) -> a welcome surprise!
  • Puma (2 goals)
  • Mizuno (4 goals)

TOP 2: ADIDAS Football

With 18 players who scored in the PFL wearing the three stripes on their feet, a total of 35 goals are attributed to the German brand with Jordan Mintah being at the forefront.

TOP 1: NIKE Football

Seemingly a favorite of most attacking players in the PFL with Ceres Negros midfield maestro Stephan Schröck as one of its leading disciples, 25 individuals found the back of the net while equipped with the swoosh brand for a whopping 59 goals all in all.

BIGGEST WINNER

Wait, where’s TOP 3?

Well, it’s been saved for last since the brand can be considered the biggest climber with respect to its relative profile compared to the other global brands and it’s none other than CONCAVE which has Bienvenido Marañon to thank for.

Ceres’ most lethal striker, despite being signed under the Australian brand, began the domestic campaign wearing a different pair of boots opting to limit the use of his Concave Halo’s for the AFC Cup campaign where the Spaniard turned out to be one of the best goalscorers.

Bienvenido Marañon and his Concave shoes

However, once The Busmen’s continental front has come to an end at the ASEAN Zone semifinals, Marañon began to wear Concaves in the PFL where he racked up eight goals in his Halo’s in just four matches to magically push the brand to third spot in the standings!

Now, the question is, with Marañon rocking a pair which does not have mainstream footprint in the Philippines (Concave Asia is based in Indonesia as per its Instagram account), can this influence the striker for a future move to a different country where the brand has a much more visible presence in the near future?

For now, it’s just purely speculation.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League

Current top scoring boot brands in PFL 2019

A little over a month has passed since the third season of the Philippines Football League has commenced. With 43 goals scored in total, here are the top scoring football boots in the country’s top tier (as of June 17, 2019).

Puma, Kipsta: 1 goal each

Mendiola’s Franco Dela Torre scored a goal near the half-hour mark last June 2 against Green Archers United wearing a pair of Kipsta Agility’s.

Alvin Obero of Air Force etched his name in the goalscoring tally after converting against Mendiola near the hour mark last June 8 while armed with his Puma Future boots.

Mizuno: 3 goals

Green Archers United’s Val Jurao scored a brace last June 2 against Mendiola in Morelia Neos.

Meanwhile, defender Martin Steuble scored a spectacular 24th minute goal for Ceres-Negros during the club’s opener against Stallion while also wearing the Morelia Neos.

Adidas: 14 goals

Adidas came in second in the standings with 14 goals, led by Kaya FC Iloilo’s Jordan Mintah who was able to shake the back of the net four times making him the second highest scorer in the league at the moment with his Adidas Nemeziz Initiators.

Other goal-scorers for Adidas: Jayson Panhay (Kaya FC), Christian Zubiri (Green Archers), Mike Ott (Ceres-Negros), Jo Warren Bedia (Stallion), Nathan Alquiros (Stallion), James Kim (Green Archers), Papuh Corsame (Mendiola FC), Alfred Osei (Kaya FC)

Nike: 24 goals

Currently the choice of the league’s deadliest strikers and chance-takers, Nike boasts the most number of conversions with the ball crossing the line and into the back of the net a whopping 24 times.

Although leading by a very significant margin, Nike also has the distinction of scoring an own goal.

Topping the list of scorers at the moment while wearing Nike in the Philippines Football League is Ceres-Negros’ Bienvenido Marañon with a league-leading eight goals under his name, all while wearing Nike Tiempo 7 Stealth Ops.

Other goal-scorers for Nike in the PFL: Abou Sy (Stallion), Jovin Bedic (Kaya FC), Curt Dizon (Ceres-Negros), Mahir Karic (Ceres-Negros), Jeffrey Chirstiaens (Ceres-Negros), Floriano Pasilan (Green Archers), John Celiz (Green Archers), Fitch Arboleda (Stallion), Ashley Flores (Mendiola FC), Chima Uzoka (Stallion)

Photo credit: Philippines Football League