Ceres-La Salle FC debuted the hard way in the 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, drawing with Selangor FA of Malaysia, 2-2, in group play on Tuesday at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
Evidently the better team in the first half of the football match in the capital of Negros Occidental province, Ceres broke the ice early, with a goal in the 18th minute from Stephan Schrock, who found the back of the net with a left-footed kick from outside the box.
The shot from the Filipino-German, a delight to watch with his delightful all-around play, earned wild cheering from the estimated 8,000 fans inside the stadium.
The joy was short-lived, however, with the visitors equalizing in the 34th minute via a point from Mauro Olivi, from Argentina.
Olivi’s goal looked more like a gift from Ceres goalkeeper Michael Casas, who fumbled in front of the net.
Casas had secured the ball, prepared for a free kick, only for Olivi who had been giving chase to block it, slotting the ball without much effort.
What looked like a rookie mistake by the Ceres net minder seemed to take the sting off the host, which coasted along until the end of the first 45 minutes of regulation play.
Ceres, based in Bacolod City, regrouped in the second half, only to be thwarted in the 60th minute by a goal from Selangor’s Mohd Hafi, who sent the ball home with an emphatic kick several feet away from the box and evidently beyond saving by Casas.
With the clock ticking away, the hosts seemed destined to break the record of Philippine teams—club or national—not losing a game at Panaad Stadium in years.
But Adrian Gallardo, a Spaniard, did not let the visitors get away with the first of two games between Ceres and Selangor.
In the 87th minute, Gallardo scored with a header just outside the net, apparently to the relief of the thousands of football fans at the stadium and in their homes watching the live TV broadcast of the match.
The second clash in the group stage of the 2016 AFC Cup between Ceres and Selangor will take place in Malaysia later.
In Hong Kong, also on Tuesday, another Philippine football club—Kaya FC—was waylaid by its host Kechee, 1-0.
This year marks the first time in the history of the AFC Cup—Asia’s premier club tournament— that two Filipino football clubs have qualified for group play.
The AFC Cup allows four foreigners in a local team but one of them should come from Asia.