Converting two penalty kicks in the 21 st and 34 th minutes, Ceres-La Salle FC finally nailed their first win in the AFC Cup as they beat Tampines Rovers, 2-1, in the Group E Qualifier at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City last night.
The historic win saw the reigning UFL champions starting aggressively and taking possession of the ball in the first half despite playing in a flooded field. The match was delayed for more than an hour due to the heavy downpour at the Panaad.
Twenty minutes into play, Ceres got the break as referee Wang Di charged Tampines' Kwon Jun with a handball. Bienvi Marañon completed the penalty as he calmly rolled the ball into the net for the home team's first goal.
Fifteen minutes later, Irwah Shah of Tampines fouled Gallardo inside the box paving the way for Ceres' second goal.
“The team went into this mach with the mind-set of winning and getting the 3 points,” Ceres head coach Franklin Muescan said at the post-match press conference.
“We prepared well for this mentally and physically and the hard work paid off,” Muescan added.
However, he admitted that after scoring the two goals in the first half, Ceres' performance dipped in the fiinal half, allowing Billy Mehmet to score for Tampines in the 64 th minute.
“Players' performance went down in the second half but we managed to hold on and maintain the organization of defense. Our goalkeeper did a lot of crucial saves,” Muescan said.
The win augurs well for Ceres, who will be playing in the finals of the UFL this Saturday against Global.
Coach Muescan said playing in the UFL finals is a good preparation for their away match in the AFC Cup against Selangor FA in Malaysia on April 26.*NAB