A lovely free kick from Manny Ott three minutes before halftime for the second goal of Philippine side Ceres-Negros FC against Singapore’s Home United on Wednesday night at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City sealed a historic win for the local team in the 2017 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup.
The 2-0 victory for a 3-2 aggregate tally not only sent Ceres-Negros to the Asian inter-zonal stage of the region’s Tier 2 football club tournament but also made it as the first Philippine side to go beyond the Asean zonal finals since the AFC Cup began in 2004.
The match on August 9 was the second in the two teams’ two-leg zonal finals, with the first won by Home United, 2-1, in the away game for Ceres Negros at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
Ceres-Negros needed only a 1-0 scoreline to clinch the Asean zonal finals but apparently did not want to give the visitors many chances to break the hearts of football-crazy Bacolod City.
The livewire OJ Porteria, a Filipino-American and a mainstay of the national team Philippine Azkal, struck the first point for the Busmen—who would dominate the first 45 minutes of play—just two minutes after the start of the match.
Ceres-Negros will fly to Tajikistan on August 22 for the inter-zonal semifinals clash against home team Istiklol, winner of the Central Asia zone finals, in the capital Dushanbe.
Home United, which seemed to come alive in the second half, missed a golden opportunity in the 83rd minute when an attempt from Stipe Plazibat almost made it past Ceres-Negros goalkeeper Ronald Muller, who was masterful in minding the net throughout the game.
Plazibat, a Croatian, was the scorer of one of the two goals in the home game and had been expected to trouble Ceres-Negros that, however, seemed to have found a 12th men in the noisy local football fans who thronged Panaad to support the Busmen.