SHAH ALAM, SELANGOR —Ceres-Negros left itself with a mountain to climb for the remainder of the group stage of the AFC Cup, after a stunning 0-3 defeat to Felda United of Malaysia on Tuesday at the cavernous Shah Alam Stadium here.
The Busmen conceded as early as the fifth minute when Muhammad Zaidon fired home from the edge of the area, before goals from Muhammad Hadin and Fazrul Hazli in the second half compounded the Filipino club’s rough afternoon at an almost empty stadium that can actually seat 80,000.
It was a forgettable performance for Ceres, which has dropped four points to Felda in the last two games after an impressive 5-0 drubbing of Tampines Rovers of Singapore last month.
Ceres and Felda have five points with the same goal difference, but the Malaysian side moved up to second spot due to a better head-to-head record against the Filipinos. Ceres hosts top-ranked Hanoi of Vietnam on April 19 at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, before wrapping up the group stage on May 3 against Tampinese.
Only the top team in each of the three Asean groups are guaranteed spots in the zonal semifinals along with the best second-ranked squad.
The Busmen sorely missed the suspended Manny Ott and the injured Kevin Ingreso at midfield as both Martin Steuble and Luke Woodland struggled to stamp their authority on the match.
With Ceres’ midfielders unable to track back, Zaidon was left unmarked at the edge of the area, allowing him to beat Roland Muller with a first-time shot to the top corner five minutes into the match.
The Busmen had to wait until the 52nd minute for their best chance of the game when Iain Ramsay rifled a powerful effort that forced a reflex save from Mohd Farizal at the Felda goal.
Ceres gave up another goal in the 66th minute after failing to clear a cross that allowed Hadin to smash home from close range.
Muller spilled the ball in front of goal in the 76th minute as Fazrul poked it home for a third.
Global-Cebu vs Johor
Meanwhile, Global-Cebu seeks payback against Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim as they collide in a Group F match at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
But Global would miss skipper Misagh Bahadoran due to a knee injury as it tries to avenge a 0-4 loss to the 2015 AFC Cup champion in Johor last March 14.