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Ceres-Negros, Than Quang Ninh share spoils in four-goal draw

A heated encounter between Philippine champions Ceres-Negros FC and Vietnamese side Than Quang Ninh FC ended in a battling 2-2 draw in the AFC Cup 2020 Group G match held in Rizal Stadium last February 25.

In the early proceedings, the match exhibited a stop-start pace as both sides tried to weigh each other, exhibiting physicality, with some fouls committed on both ends.

But at the seventh minute, the hosts showed signs with regards to their capabilities on the attack, particularly on the wing play at the right flank with OJ Porteria and Robert Lopez Mendy almost connecting.

A good run of spell in possession followed for Ceres-Negros as they were able to dictate the proceedings in the moments that followed.

At the 14th minute, Than Quang Ninh had a decent chance though to score the breakthrough off a corner kick, but the headed attempt just flew wide of the near post as it remained a stalemate after the first quarter of an hour.

Despite the threat, the busmen were able to regain their bearings as they dictated once again the match with a promising chance arriving in the 24th minute as Stephan Schrock produced a teasing low pass across the opposition’s goalmouth only for the ball to marginally avoid the lurking forwards, Bienvenido Maranon and Lopez Mendy.

However that chance proved to be something that they would immediately rue as the Vietnamese side found themselves in front in the 26th minute after capitalizing on a defensive error with forward Jermie Lynch guiding the ball with such precision to find the back of the net.

Ceres immediately tried to respond with two consecutive chances from headers, but the equalizer proved elusive with half an hour gone.

Six minutes later, Manuel Ott tried a speculative effort, but his attempt to pull off something spectacular came to naught as the shot missed the target.

However a late first-half drama ensued. As the hosts desperately tried to claw their way and come up with an equalizing goal, Bienvenido Maranon was fouled inside the box promoting Malaysian referee Mohd Amirul Rizwan to point to the spot.

The aggrieved Maranon, duly took the penalty with such audacity, converting a chipped effort to put the tie well in the balance, as both sides head into the break sharing a goal each.

After the restart, both sides went off the blocks by employing high pressure on both ends, trying to catch the opposition on the counter.

Nine minutes into the second half, after a well-worked passing play, Bienve Maranon found himself in a position to unleash and put Ceres ahead, but his lobbed effort went over the bar.

A similar situation faced Robert Lopez Mendy a few moments after but also his attempt went sky high.

In the 61st minute, after an excellent play initiated by Porteria that found Maranon, the ball eventually found Manuel Ott without opposition but his shot hit the bar.

That miss will not be much of a concern for the busmen in the next minute though, as Porteria eventually gave his side the lead, firing low from an angle that beat Than Quang Ninh keeper, Huyn Tuan Linh to send the stadium into raptures.

With the onus now on the visiting side to come up with a leveller, the hero miners eventually got what they were searching for in the 70th minute after a mix-up inside Ceres-Negros’ box gave midfielder Nguyen Hai Huy enough window for an opportunistic strike that caught Ceres keeper Roland Muller stranded and hushing the Rizal Memorial crowd into stunned silence.

Six minutes later another and the Vietnamese side produced another scare for the Philippine champions as another shot from range unleashed just scraped outside Muller’s left post, escaping what could definitely be a complicated deficit.

As both clubs searched for the wining goal, eventually the tie ended in a draw as both sides split points in Group G.

Ceres-Negros will next face Indonesian champions Bali United on March 11 in Rizal Stadium in what could be considered as the busmen’s biggest test yet in the early phase of this year’s continental tournament.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

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AFC Cup 2020 Boot Spotting: Ceres and Kaya creators in Group Stage Rd 1

The first round of AFC Cup 2020 group stage action concluded with Filipino clubs Ceres-Negros FC and Kaya FC-Iloilo getting positive starts, and they have their goal creators to thank for.

Without further delay here are the goal providers after the first round of matches in the AFC Cup.

OJ Porteria (WF/MF, Ceres-Negros: 2 Assists)

Provided Takashi Odawara’s 14th minute opening goal and Bienvenido Marañon’s second in the 70th minute, OJ Porteria was in his element for Ceres in their AFC Cup 2020 campaign opener against Svay Rieng FC.

One of the busmen’s crucial pieces in their offense, Porteria’s pace, ball-control and flair make him either a goalscoring threat or a creator of chances. And in this particular fixture, OJ has been an excellent feeder for his strike partners.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

OJ Porteria’s boots: Nike Mercurial Vapor 13 Elite “New Lights” pack

Stephan Schröck (MF, Ceres-Negros: 1 ASSIST)

The AFC Cup 2019 assists leader, Ceres captain Stephan Schröck provided another deceivingly dangerous cross that Joshua Grommen converted in the 14th minute.

Always a threat in set pieces, and a steady source of chances in the attacking third, Schroecky is definitely a catalyst for his club. And once again, one of his efforts ended up being guided into the back of the net.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

Stephan Schröck’s boots: Nike Tiempo Legend 8 Elite

Manuel Ott (MF, Ceres-Negros FC: 1 ASSIST)

After a season overseas, Manny Ott returns to Ceres-Negros FC. Arguably considered as the best creative midfielder in Philippine football, perhaps one of the best in Southeast Asia, his return produced an assist for Bienvenido Marañon in the 55th minute.

If Manny Ott already produced an assist in his return debut, then expect more chances and goals from him for Ceres as the campaign further unfolds both in the AFC Cup and the domestic league!

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

Manuel Ott’s boots: Nike Mercurial Superfly 6 Elite

Arnel Amita (MF, Kaya FC-Iloilo: 1 ASSIST)

Arguably the X-factor for Kaya FC-Iloilo against Shan United, just 10 minutes after being introduced into the match as a second half substitute, the impetus provided by Arnel Amita eventually led to the breakthrough as he was fouled inside the box meriting a penalty which Jovin Bedic converted.

After another ten minutes elapsed, Kaya found themselves two goals up as Eric Giganto unleashed a well-struck drive that drilled into the back of the net, with the feed courtesy of Amita’s well-timed pass. Now, talk about Mr. Quality Minutes!

Photo credit: Kaya FC-Iloilo

Arnel Amita’s boots: Nike Mercurial Superfly 6 Elite “LVL UP” pack

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Ceres-Negros dominate in AFC Cup 2020 opener

Ceres-Negros FC put up a convincing team performance en-route to a 4-0 win against Cambodian champions Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC in the AFC Cup 2020 group stage opener last February 11, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Visitors Svay Rieng employed a high tempo from the get-go forcing Ceres-Negros to match the same intensity. The end-to-end dynamics provided Robert Lopez Mendy with an opportunity to test the opposing goalkeeper unleashing from distance in the fourth minute, only to miss the target.

In the eighth minute, Lopez Mendy once again was given a chance this time in a much better position to shoot inside the box but his attempt was so wayward.

Right in the 13th minute, Ceres-Negros finally got the breakthrough with Takashi Odawara’s low shot from the edge of the box finding the back of the net near the far post to put the hosts in front well within the first quarter of an hour.

A minute later and it was two goals up for the busmen as another goal was scored with Josh Grommen slotting in Stephan Schrock’s delivery to put the hosts at a much better situation.

Ceres-Negros were a bit on the upper-hand for the most part until the 22nd minute when a penalty was called against the hosts as Josh Grommen has been adjudged to have committed an infraction inside the box. However, Svay Rieng failed to capitalize from the spot as Ceres keeper Roland Muller produced a fine save to deny Thiago Dos Santos and maintain the two-goal difference.

Despite the bright start for the Filipino side, Cambodian champions Svay Rieng continued to be dangerous with their pacy approach to the game, especially on the counterattack.

But the early goals proved enough as the first half concluded with the busmen firmly in control heading into the break.

Ten minutes after the restart, Ceres-Negros once again found the back of the net for the third time after a slick linkup play found Spanish striker Bienvenido Maranon at an angle who was still able to squeeze the ball past goalkeeper Aim Sovannarath.

Around the hour mark and the moments after, Svay Rieng had some good spells on their own, but with the half-chances presented to them, coach Risto Vidakovic’s men were equal to those as the breakthrough was hard to come by for the visitors.

At the stroke of the 70th minute, Maranon once again found the back of the net after a well-worked effort from OJ Porteria to carve the opening and lay-off a pass for his teammate to convert and put the tie virtually out of reach for the visitors.

Ceres-Negros will next face Vietnamese club Thanh Quang Ninh at Rizal Memorial Stadium on February 25, at 7:30 PM.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

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FC Tokyo: Ceres-Negros’ toughest hurdle yet

Ceres-Negros may have achieved a monumental win against Thai club Port FC to book their place in the AFC Champions League 2020 playoff match but awaiting the busmen is probably their most difficult challenge yet: FC Tokyo.

Here’s a brief background on FC Tokyo focusing more on the club’s past season form and achievements and which players to watch out for.

FC Tokyo’s 2019 campaign

Despite coming short from winning the J1 title, the capital-based club had a stellar domestic league campaign last year finishing second (their best ever achievement since winning J2 and the Emperor’s Cup back in 2011, and returning to the top-flight).

For the most part of the 2019 season, from Week 8 to Week 27, FC Tokyo had led the league standings, until relinquishing their seat at the summit and struggling to regain it for good.

In conclusion, FC Tokyo finished the 2019 season with 64 points from 19 wins, 7 draws, and 8 losses – a total that was just six points shy from eventual league champions Yokohama F. Marinos.

A talented, dangerous squad

At the post-season J.League awards, officials have chosen six players from FC Tokyo as part of the season’s “Best XI” namely, Akihiro Hayashi (GK), Sei Muroya (DF), Masato Morishige (DF), Kento Hashimoto (MF), Kensuke Nagai (FW), and Diego Oliveira (FW/ST).

Out of the six players who received the end-of-season plaudits, striker Diego Oliveira proved to be a reliable target-man in his second season for the club by notching 14 goals which were good enough to be tied at second-best in the entire J1.

The fact that six players from the club made it to the standout players’ squad for the season speaks volumes of the capability that head coach Kenta Hasegawa has under his disposal. Add to those some of additional key players in the squad such as captain Keigo Higashi, Yojiro Takahagi, Kyosuke Tagawa, Tsuyoshi Watanabe, and a trio of Brazilian midfielders in their ranks, FC Tokyo indeed has a very imposing squad.

What are Ceres-Negros chances?

On paper: Slim. Very!

But it doesn’t mean that it’s already a lost cause for Ceres-Negros’ 13th destination in their Asian football odyssey (not at all!), as the Philippines’ league and cup champions have the tools to come up with a decent challenge and hopefully a surprise upset.

Even though Japan has a much better and matured football program, which includes its league system, it is to note that FC Tokyo, other than preseason friendlies, has yet to play a competitive fixture. This situation, similar to the to the previous match against Port FC, could be something that the busmen can exploit.

And given that Ceres-Negros are heading into this match as clear underdogs, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain – something that head coach Risto Vidakovic could take advantage of in motivating his wards.

Whoever will start for Ceres (with or without without talismanic midfielder and captain Stephan Schröck, due to card accumulation), they should bring with them and lay their best ever game on to the pitch of the Ajinomoto Stadium. If they ever execute that to a tee, then they have a good chance of achieving their greatest milestone in club history: Breaking through Asia’s biggest league in international club football – the AFC Champions League!

FC Tokyo vs Ceres-Negros FC AFC Champions League qualification playoff match will kick-off on January 28, 2020 at 7PM local time (6PM Philippine Time) and will be shown live on Philippine cable TV at FOX Sports 2.

Photo credit (Ajinomoto/Tokyo Stadium): FC Tokyo Facebook page

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Schröck wizardry lifts Ceres-Negros over Port

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

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Azkals U22 get monumental 1-0 win against Malaysia

The Philippine Azkals U22, against the odds, produced a gritty 1-0 win in their third group stage match against Malaysia to keep their hopes of reaching the semifinals alive in the 30th Southeast Asian Games held in Rizal Stadium last November 29, 2019.

Right from the start, the Philippines tried to push forward as evidenced by a freekick awarded within the first minute of the match when Stephan Schröck was fouled.

The ensuing freekick led to a corner kick for the hosts, but the attempted buildup was broken down successfully by the Malaysian defense.

Moments followed with both teams trading possessions and threatening runs but neither were able to produce a gilt-edged chance.

In the 18th minute Azkals defender Mar Diano seemed to have suffered a knock but after undergoing initial treatment, was able to continue as the match saw sporadic action until Rontini’s 21st minute effort from range that was comfortably dealt with by Malaysia’s net-minder Muhammad Nadzli.

A freekick by Malaysia in the 23rd minute by Adam Nor Azlin flew well on-target but Philippines’ goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus was equal to it.

As the match went nearer the half-hour mark, team captain Schröck tried to intiate some half-chances but the opening goal was hard to come by with Harimau Malaya having some promising glimpses as well.

But come the 30th minute, just as the Philippines seem to have gotten the slight upper-hand, Malaysia’s Muhammad Abdul Razak was able to unleash an effort from an angle that flew just wide of the far post.

In the 38th minute, another promising spell went the Azkals’ way with Dylan de Bruycker’s shot from outside the box being blocked by a Malaysian defender for a corner kick but the ensuing play left the hosts empty handed.

Malaysia may have a good chance to score via a 40th minute counterattack but they weren’t able to take advantage as the undermanned defense of the Philippines was able to thwart the buildup.

The final minutes of the first half had both sets of fans at the edge of their seats as the match hung precariously in the balance with either of the two teams having the possibility poised to break the ice.

It could be something that the Azkals would rue in the play that followed in the first minute of injury time of the first half as a well-worked cross by Schröck was able to find towering forward Chima Uzoka but the headed attempt arched way over the bar.

A thrilling close to the first half unfolded with Malaysia handed a freekick in what served as the last kick of the first 45 minutes but the ball produced was far from promising as it flew out of bounds and both teams headed into the break with neither scoring a goal.

As the second half began, with Stephan Schröck unleashing an early shot that flew just wide.

In the 52nd minute, a corner kick saw a shooting chance when the ball bounced kindly in front of an Azkal outside the box but the attempt was blocked.

The hosts turned up the ante in the following minutes as they were able to get a few consecutive set-pieces with Malaysia forced to defend for the most part, but still the opening goal proved to be elusive.

As the hour mark arrived, the visitors came up with a threatening play as the ball glided into the danger zone but Pinthus was able to cushion the ball with the palm of his hands and under his control.

In the 66th minute, the Malaysians were able to get a shot on target as Muhammad Norhisham unleashing a low strike from distance but Pinthus once again was composed in dealing with the attempt.

But the breakthrough did arrive for the Azkals as a 73rd minute deceitful corner kick by Stephan Schröck, aided with the pressure applied by Amani Aguinaldo, found the back of the net.

The advantage seemed to have immediately turned Malaysia into life as two successive attempts within the 77th minute, though ending empty-handed, were worryingly enough for the Azkals backline.

Sure enough in the 80th minute the Malaysians pulled off probably one of their most promising shots but Muhammad Abdul Razak’s just flew marginally off target. But Malaysia still kept piling the pressure near the 90th minute mark by marauding the Azkals’ penalty box as the onus rested on their end to produce the crucial leveler.

But the equalizer proved to be elusive for the Harimau as the Philippines get a monumental win to keep its 2019 SEA Games campaign and hopes of surviving Group A alive and kicking.

The Philippine Azkals will next face Timor-Leste in their final group stage match on December 4 which will be hosted in Biñan Football Stadium. Kickoff is at 4:00PM. Malaysia meanwhile will clash against Cambodia at the same schedule which will be held in Rizal Stadium.

Photo credit: Smile Eight Photography

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FIFA WCQ2022: Azkals captain Stephan Schröck looks for redemption against Syria

Just after the Philippine Azkals reignited their campaign and hopes of progressing to the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after getting a 2-1 win against hosts Maldives last November 14, national team captain Stephan Schröck is looking forward to a better showing against a formidable Syrian side on November 19 in Dubai.

Speaking to the media during their pre-departure flight to United Arab Emirates, Azkals team captain Stephan Schröck shared the overall positive morale of the squad after getting the much needed win that put them in the same points haul with China in Group A standings.

“The (team) spirit is very good at the moment. Of course if you level points with China ( in the group) after four games… Who would have thought this (promising situation)?

“Now, if we get a good result against Syria we can maybe go out of the hunt (for survival) and look for something even bigger (in the next round).”

The Ceres-Negros talisman and spark-plug also heaped praise to his teammates who scored goals against Maldives, Iain Ramsay and John-Patrick Strauss.

“Both of them really had a good game and they deserve (scoring) these goals.

“Iain (Ramsay) worked very hard. (John-Patrick) Strauss was all over the place, chasing everyone over the pitch.”

The captain also did not forget to commend the whole squad during the course of the entire match.

“The whole team (gave) a great performance… We showed character in the second half.”

When asked about the upcoming return match against Syria (The Azkals lost their first meeting with the middle-easterners with a 2-5 scoreline), Schröck is looking forward to a much better output form the team.

“We’re looking to learn from our mistakes, and the next game will prove (just that).

“We’re looking to improve the result because it was a hard one for us to swallow that night (during the first meeting against Syria).

“We’re looking for redemption.”

Syria vs Philippines is scheduled to kickoff on Tuesday, November 19, at 10:00PM (Philippine Time). The Venue is at Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium.

Photo credit: Football Association of Maldives Facebook page