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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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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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3 PFL players who deserve Azkals call-ups this 2019

The Philippine Azkals have three more fixtures for the remainder of 2019 with the World Cup qualifier match against China happening in a fortnight, and with the Philippines Football League (PFL) 2019 season in its end-phase, a few  local players emerged as standouts that could merit a consideration to be in Azkals Head Coach Goran Milojevic’s near future squad.

In the Azkals that recently competed against Syria and Guam for the qualifiers, only OJ Porteria, Mike Ott and Sean Kane (all of Ceres-Negros) represented the domestic pro league. Meanwhile, homegrown PFL player Jovin Bedic of Kaya who probably may have also featured in the squad, suffered an injury which made him unavailable that time.

However, with the domestic season already poised for its conclusion and the performances of players for their respective clubs already becoming clear in terms of how they fared, here is a list of three proven in-form local PFL players who deserve to have at least a shot in being part of the national team before 2019 ends (in no particular order).

Nathan Alquiros (Stallion Laguna, Midfielder)

Nathan Alquiros (Stallion Laguna, 6) battling for the ball against Mike Ott (Ceres-Negros). Source: Philippines Football League

One of Stallion Laguna’s main offensive orchestrators from the middle of the park has been an engine for his squad this PFL 2019 season which is currently at solo third in the standings.

Being the one who usually pull the strings for Coach Ernest Nierras’ Biñan-based squad either in the center or right midfield, with an occasional license to advance and strike forward, the product of De La Salle University’s football program has been a model of industry for his club.

Nathan Alquiros’ vision, ball-control and ability to read the play and unleash a shot in promising situations make him one of the standout creative midfielders in the league, not to mention his willingness to put in the hard work on the defensive end – something that the Azkals coaching staff might need to have a second look to further add a dash of uncompromising industry to the midfield.

Fitch Arboleda (Stallion Laguna, Winger/Forward/Midfielder)

Fitch Arboleda (Stallion Laguna, 27) with the ball as Boris Moudang (Air Force, 37) chases.
Source: Philippines Football League

Definitely one of the most consistent performers for Stallion Laguna this season, Fitch Arboleda has been on a tear for his club either as a scorer or a creator.

The pacy winger has been one of the main focal points of Stallion’s attack and his current output of nine goals, which is tied at fourth, is a testament of how Fitch has become an indispensable part of the club for all these three years in the PFL, not to mention his proven ability to also provide an assist to a much better-positioned strike partner.

However, the Azkals’ wealth in the winger and forward roles may prove a tough challenge for the former University of the East standout in making the squad. But if the Azkals are somehow presented a void on the flanks, Fitch Arboleda definitely is an option that should not be ignored.

Jim Ashley Flores (Mendiola FC 1991, Forward/Striker)

Jim Ashley Flores (Mendiola, 7) in an aerial battle against Chyma Uzoka (Global, 20)
Source: Philippines Football League

Arguably the most deserving of a call-up at the moment, Ashley Flores has been one of the few, yet most significant, positives for an otherwise tough debut season for FC Mendiola 1991 in the PFL.

The former San Beda University product’s current total of nine goals makes him tied in the goal-scorers’ standings at fourth, but what makes his achievement all the more notable is he was able to score against all other opposing PFL clubs, including powerhouses Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC.

A proven scorer deployed either as a main or support striker, whether it’s from a spectacular individual effort or a bundled goal produced from pure graft, Ashley Flores’ qualities and current form definitely merit a chance for an inclusion to the Azkals in at last one of its future qualifier matches.

Honorable Mentions

  • Alen Angeles (Mendiola FC 1991, Forward/Winger)
  • Jesus Melliza (Stallion Laguna, Forward/Midfielder)
  • Paolo Bugas (Green Archers United, Midfielder)
  • Marwin Angeles (Kaya FC Iloilo, Midfielder)
  • Joshua Dutosme (Ceres-Negros, Defender/Wingback)

YOUR OPINION COUNTS TOO!

Do you agree in this list? Which PFL player at the moment do you think deserves a call-up to the national team? Post them on the comments section below or on our social media channels on Facebook.

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AFC Cup: Ceres and Kaya players top goalscoring chart after Matchday 2

Five players from Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC Iloilo have made the Top 10 goalscoring chart after two rounds of fixtures in the AFC Cup 2019 group stage.

Matchday 2 in the ASEAN Zone has been one to savor for Filipino football fans as both Philippine club representatives notch convincing wins in their respective assignments.

First up, Ceres-Negros notched their second win in as many matches with a 3-1 scoreline as Bienvenido Maranon scored a hat-trick away against Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong last Tuesday, March 12, at the Go Dau Stadium.

On Wednesday afternoon (March 13), Kaya Iloilo attains its first win of the campaign in emphatic fashion as they thumped Singapore’s Home United 5-0 in their designated home ground, the Panaad Stadium, as Darryl Roberts (2′, 37′) and Alfred Osei (49′, 55′) score two goals each while team captain Jovin Bedic also saw the back of the net off a 33rd minute effort.

Such results put five players from both Filipino clubs into the top ten goalscoring chart according to AFC.

Maranon’s hat-trick puts him in joint top spot with four goals in total alongside Al Wehdat forward Baha’ Seif and Hanoi FC striker Ganiyu Oseni.

Jovin Bedic, Alfred Osei and Darryl Roberts round up the scorers’ table alongside Ceres-Negros winger OJ Porteria, who scored two goals in the opener against Shan United last February 26, with two goals each.

AFC Cup official goalscoring stats

From a team standpoint, both Filipino clubs also make waves in the scoring department as their respective outputs put them tied in fourth place with six goals scored in total for each.

Although, it is still very much early in the group phase, the positive results for both clubs in their respective Matchday 2 give them a head-start, putting them in a promising position as they aim to progress to the knockout phase.

Standings for both Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC Iloilo’s respective groups

Despite firing “yellow warnings” to oppositions, both Filipino clubs are up for mouthwatering clashes as Ceres-Negros host Indonesian giants and champions Persija Jakarta in Panaad on April 3 at 7:30PM, while Kaya travel to South Sulawesi in Indonesia to face Liga I runners-up PSM Makassar on April 2 at 4:00PM.

Both matches will be shown via ESPN5’s 5Plus and FOX Sports Asia channels.

Photo credits: AFC Cup