By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FRESH from its historic and groundbreaking bid in the AFC Champions League, Bacolod City-based club Ceres-Negros FC now channels it focus on the AFC Cup, beginning today as it kick-starts its bid with a home game against visiting Boeung Ket Angkor of Cambodia.
Bracketed in Group F in the group stage, the “Busmen,” the defending ASEAN Zone winner, will play in a series of home-and-away games against C-League champion Boeung Ket, ASEAN Zone finalist Home United of Singapore, and Myanmar champion Shan United with the hopes of emerging on top of the grouping to advance to the next round of Asia’s secondary club football tournament.
It all begins for Ceres in its 7:30 p.m. match today against Boeung Ket at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.
In last year’s edition of the Cup, Ceres, the inaugural champion of the Philippines Football League, topped its grouping and advanced to the ASEAN Zone semifinals and eventually to the finals where it won over Home United.
In the inter-zone playoff semifinals though it fell to FC Istiklol of Tajikistan, 5-1, to see its impressive run come to an end.
Expected to carry the cudgels for the team this year are Stephan Schrock, Manny Ott, and Super Herrera to be joined possibly of new signings Tony Doblas, Mike Ott, Sean Kane, and Takumi Uesato.
AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RUN
Ceres is coming off a head-turning performance in the AFC Champions League where it became the first Filipino club to come within one win of advancing to the main draw of the tournament.
Despite not highly regarded as the other competing teams in the preliminary round, it went on to beat Shan United in the first round and then upset Brisbane Roar in the second round to come within one win of making further history in the Champions League.
Ceres said it will try to build on that experience and put into good use the lessons of it as it embarks for the AFC Cup even as it said that it is expecting nothing easy as it has put itself as a “target” for the good performances it has had of late.
This year will mark the fourth time the Bacolod-based team will be competing in the AFC Cup.
The other club carrying the Philippine flag in this year’s edition of the tournament is Global Cebu FC, which is in Group G.
It lost in its opener last Saturday to Vietnamese side FLC Thanh Hoa F.C., 1-0, in Hanoi.
The match between Ceres and Boeung Ket will be shown live over cable channel FOX Sports 2.