Victorious by virtue of away goals, Ceres Negros FC made history in the Asia Football Confederation (AFC) Cup as it downed Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), 2-1 (4-4 on aggregate), in a dramatic finish on Wednesday night at the packed Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.
Fernando Rodriguez was taken down by Aidil Zafuan inside the box following a set piece before the Spanish striker converted the tie-winning penalty kick five minutes into added time, making Ceres Negros the first Filipino football club to advance to the Asean Zonal finals.
The Busmen collected the two pivotal away goals despite conceding three to JDT in their first leg encounter last May 17 at the Larkin Stadium in Johor, Malaysia.
Ceres sneaked into the regional finals to face Singapore’s Home United FC in August this year.
With the match off to a hot a start, Kota Kawase handed Ceres the upper hand in the 26th minute as he found the ball off a well-placed free kick by Marvin Ingreso before tapping it home.
The Southern Tigers roared back as Hazwan Bakri fed a through ball to a streaking Gabriel Guerra and the Argentine winger fired from tight angle to tie it up at 1-1and bring the aggregate advantage back to the Malaysian side in the 65th.
All hopes seemed lost to the home side with the time nearing the final whistle until the referee awarded the penalty kick to Rodriguez, who calmly shot to the middle of the net sending goalkeeper Farizal Marlias the wrong way.
Marlias lost his cool right after the penalty shot, almost triggering a fistfight with OJ Porteria and shoving away the referees that earned him a straight red card.
Besides its historic implication, the Negrenses’ victory soothed the pain from Global Cebu FC’s dismal 4-5 (aggregate) defeat to Home United FC in the second leg of their semifinals pairing.
Global would have make it an all-Filipino affair in the zonal finals if not for the late brace of Stipe Plazibat, which propelled Home United to a 3-2 (5-4 on aggregate) win at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.