Ceres-Negros’ impressive run in the AFC Champions League came to an end in Tokyo last Tuesday night as the Busmen absorbed a 0-2 defeat to FC Tokyo in cold and wet conditions at Ajinomoto Stadium.
Second half goals from Sei Muroya and Brazilian striker Adailton snuffed out the Busmen’s hopes of another upset as the Philippines Football League champions dropped to the AFC Cup for the third straight year.
Even after falling at the final hurdle, Ceres’ performance provided another highlight to a struggling club football scene in the country as it took down Thai powerhouse Port FC on its way to the duel in Tokyo.
On the cusp of reaching the group stage for the second time in three years, the Filipino club bravely fought to hold off the Japanese powerhouse in the first half. It helped that a waterlogged pitch stunted Tokyo’s attacking play.
Ceres also had an undermanned side, missing Stephan Schrock due to suspension and Mike Ott and Sean Kane to injuries.
That meant Josh Grommen, Dylan De Bruycker and Angelo Marasigan were inserted into the starting lineup by coach Risto Vidakovic, who set out with a 5-4-1 formation.
Ceres rode its luck and the brilliance of Roland Muller in the first half with the goalkeeper denying Leandro with a triple save in the first half after Super Herrera’s botched clearance.
Tokyo finally took the lead three minutes after half-time when Muroya’s effort slipped from Muller’s grasp.
The Busmen also gained a man advantage in the last 10 minutes when Taichi Hara was sent off for an elbow on Takashi Odawara.
Coach Risto Vidakovic sent in James Younghusband for Angelo Marasigan to provide an aerial threat, but the veteran was just ahead of the ball when Mendy flicked it into his path after a free kick.
Ceres threw more players forward in search for an equalizer, but the Busmen got caught on the counter in the 89th minute with Adailton providing an exquisite finish from just outside the box.
The Busmen are headed to the group stage of the AFC Cup, where it will meet Quang Thinh of Vietnam, Bali United and the winner of the playoff between Master 7 of Laos and Svey Rieng of Cambodia. Ceres will host the winner of the playoff on Feb. 11.
Philippine champions Ceres-Negros FC are set to play their toughest match in history when they face Japanese No. 2 squad FC Tokyo in the AFC Champions League Playoff on January 28 at the Tokyo Stadium in Chofu, Tokyo.
The Busmen are fighting for a spot in Asia’s most prestigious professional tournament where only thirty-two elite teams from all over Asia will be able to participate.
After getting their third-straight Philippines Football League title, the Negros squad were automatically qualified and were set on a knockout match with Myanmar Shan United. The Philippine squad pulled of a 3-2 win last January 14 in the Rizal Memorial Stadium after only having a handful of training session which started last January 6.
A week later, they traveled to Bangkok to face Thailand FA Cup Champions Port FC in another knockout match in the Preliminary stages. A strong defensive performance plus an opportunistic goal from Stephan Schrock buoyed the Filipinos to a thrilling 1-0 victory to match their famous victory two years ago in Australia against Brisbane Roar.
Now, the Philippines League winners will need to overcome the odds against a highly favored squad who finished second to eventual J League champions Yokohama Marinos who automatically qualified for the group stage.
“It’s a big honor to play against such a big club like Tokyo FC,” said Ceres-Negros Coach Risto Vidakovic. I think for us its a big bonus to be here. We did already something what nobody expected. We beat one big club in Thailand. For now its a big challenge to play tomorrow against Tokyo FC.”
The Philippine club will be at a disadvantage in Tokyo as they will be missing the services of Stephan Schrock after accumulating cards in both Preliminary matches. The Ceres-Negros captain has been terrific in the midfield for the first two matches and his presence will be surely missed against the Japanese giants.
Weather will also be a challenging factor in the upcoming match as the Busmen face the prospect of rain in frigid conditions which is forecasted to last the entire day.
Kickoff is set at 7PM local time (6PM Manila) in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics venue with the match to be shown live on cable channel Fox Sports 2.
STEPHAN Schrock knocked in the game-winner as Ceres Negros FC beat Port FC, 1-0, on Tuesday night at the PAT Stadium in Bangkok to move one victory away from claiming a historic AFC Champions League spot.
With the win, the Busmen goes to the third and final match of the preliminary stage against FC Tokyo next week with a chance to become the first Philippine club to secure a place in the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
Schrock scored on a cross in the 51st minute, the ball finding its way to the back of the net after Port FC goalkeeper Worawut Srisupa failed to knock the ball away.
The Busmen also endured anxious moments as Port FC desperately sought a game-tying goal before coming away with their second win of the preliminaries.
Takashi Odawara also had a fine effort on defense for Ceres, particularly in the second half where he had a key stop on Port striker Sergio Gustavo Arteaga that preserved the one-goal lead.
Takashi Odawara came to the Philippines in 2015 to fulfill the dream of becoming a professional football player. Little did he know that his years of hard work and sacrifice would yield a path to the biggest stage and into something deeper and more personal.
Plucked from obscurity, Odawara came from being out of a club in 2018 to becoming a Philippine league and cup champion in 2019. Now, the Japanese midfielder is now on his way to Thailand to play in the second stage of qualifying against Port FC in Bangkok next week.
The Ceres-Negros player is still in disbelief of playing in the highest level of club football in Asia after experiencing a very challenging period in his career.
After having been dropped by his former PFL club, Odawara jumped around Manila’s amateur leagues in the last two years in order to keep fit. But last Tuesday night, he debuted on the Rizal Memorial pitch playing against the Myanmar champions in Shan United.
“I didn’t imagine this,” said Odawara. It’s like dream come true because six months ago, I had no club. I was looking for a team and now I play in the AFC Champions League. This is amazing.”
Odawara also marveled on the level of competition he experience in stage 1 of qualifying after he and Ceres-Negros managed to produce a win against Myanmar champions Shan United last January 14.
“It was very exciting for me because this is my first time to play an international match. Actually, everything is very different not like the PFL. The high level and everything else was good and it was a nice first experience to me,” said the Philippine league veteran since 2015.
Ceres-Negros will next face a high quality side in Port who were crowned the FA Cup champions and are gearing for a title challenge in the Thai League title after finishing third in 2019.
Odawara is well aware of the of the difficult match that lies ahead but is also looking forward to the possible reward of playing against a very familiar club should the busmen get through to the next round.
“I grew up in Japan and since I was young, I would always watch the games of FC Tokyo with my family,” said Odawara referring to ACLU Playoff contenders FC Tokyo who are waiting in the final round. “All their home games, I watched. So I really want to win the next game and want to go Japan and play against my dream team,” he added.
“My family and friends in Japan are very happy every time they see me play for Ceres-Negros FC. I wish I can play in front of them in Japan and against my boyhood club in FC Tokyo,” said the Copa 2019 MVP.
Odawara and Ceres-Negros FC will have their chance for to the ACL Playoff when they face Thai FA Champions Port FC at the PAT Stadium on January 21.
Kickoff is set at 7PM local time (8PM Philippine time). Broadcast/livestream details will be announced on ceresfootball.com and the Ceres-Negros FC social media pages.
New signings Josh Grommen and Mark Hartmann are no strangers to Preliminary Stage 2 opponents in Port FC. Both players featured in the Thai League last season and have had first hand experience against the Thailand FA Cup Champions.
“Last year they had a very strong team,” said Grommen. “Always competed with the top sides of the league. They finished top three and won one of the cups,” added the former Sukothai defender.
“They were always competitive in the league,” said Hartmann who has been in the Thai League for two consecutive seasons. “They’ve got great players and this year they signed a couple of decent ones.”
“This season, they got a Brazilian player from Muang Thong in Heberty. He’s probably one of the best in Thailand at the moment,” Grommen exclaimed.
The former Muang Thong player is currently on loan to the Port Lions who have shown their intention to win the Thai League with the addition of Adisak and Tanaboon. Mainstays in Spanish ace Sergio Suarez,David Rochela, and Elias Dola will continue to feature for the squad.
Aside from the powerhouse team, one thing for the busmen will have to contend with is the home support which is known to be one of the most rabid especially with their close proximity to the pitch.
“Their crowd is fantastic,” said Hartmann who featured last year with Nakhon Ratchashima. “It will be full for sure so it gonna set the tone of the game.
With all things considered, Hartmann and Grommen know the challenge in facing a top caliber opponent but both have full faith in their squad to provide an upset on Tuesday.
“They’ve always been a good squad. It’s gonna be difficult for us but im sure we can do the same as last game and try to get the win,” said Harmann.
“Port has signed a few good players this year but im sure the boys can handle it,” added Grommen.
Kickoff for the January 21st match is set at 7PM Local time (8PM PHT). Broadcast or stream details will be announced on ceresfootball.com and the Ceres-Negros social media pages.
The bus is rolling on in the AFC Champions League. Ceres Negros FC got their season off to a winning start after holding off Shan United, 3-2, in the first round of the AFC Champions League preliminaries on Tuesday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Ceres Negros got off to a dream start in Manila after Robert Lopez Mendy smashed in the opener in the 5th minute to put the Busmen ahead.
The early goal proved to be a sign of what was to come, with the hosts controlling most of the game in the first half. Ceres striker Bienvinido Maranon almost doubled up the lead in the 21st minute, but his low strike via a Mike Ott feed inside the box went wide of the mark.
The hosts finally broke through for a second time in the 40th minute, after Marañon's shot from an OJ Porteria cross was deflected into the back of the net.
The second half continued the run of play of the first 45 minutes, with Ceres eager to put the game to bed early.
Lopez Mendy almost doubled up his tally in the first five minutes of the second half, but failed to take advantage of a one-on-one opportunity with the keeper and could not convert a guilt-edged rebound. Porteria also had a chance to score in that period, but skied his opportunity.
Shan looked more threatening midway through the second period, finally getting the better of keeper Roland Muller through a Zin Min Tun strike in the 73rd minute.
It didn't take long for Ceres to restore their two-goal cushion though, after Porteria turned in Ott's cross from short range just six minutes later. But with three minutes left in normal time, Djedje Maximin Djawa pulled the visitors within one goal again.
The final chance of consequence came in added time with Shan United through a free kick in the Ceres penalty area. Fortunately for the hosts, Nanda Kyaw's free kick sailed high and wide of the mark.
Ceres Negros will move on to play Thailand's Port FC in the second round of the preliminaries on January 21.
MANILA -- Global Makati assured the followers of the local football scene in the country of a return to the 2020 season of the Philippines Football League.
The club's official Facebook page announced their return for the fourth season of the PFL, with the intent of putting the "possibly the strongest team yet."
They also announced a new investor to the club in the name of a Hong Kong-based consortium led by Mazinyi Management Limited. The page also announced that "the new consortium will take Global back to its previous heights."
Global's announcement makes the total participating clubs of the PFL to six for the 2020 season.
In October, Global also broadcast the arrival of Andrew Piesse to strengthen the front office of the team, who faced various struggles in the past two PFL seasons.
The club also stated that their will be more to follow with regards to their participation in the 2020 season.
Global was the runner-up of the PFL's inaugural season, second only to eventual champions Ceres-Negros FC.
"I would like to thank Kaya FC Iloilo for the opportunities accorded to me these last 3 years, during which I have learned a great deal and grown as a person and coach. I would also like to thank my staff for their support, professionalism and friendship; and the players for their stirring, courageous efforts. I look back proudly on our Copa Paulino Alcantara triumph in 2018 that lead to our AFC Cup Campaign 2019 and our second place finish in the following year, the PFL runner-up positions we secured in both 2018 and 2019..
My heartfelt gratitude also goes to the 12th man - the fans and supporters of Kaya. Your ardent and steadfast support made my job a very meaningful one and our matches thrilling and memorable affairs.
It is unfortunate that we now have to part ways, but Kaya FC Iloilo will always occupy a special place in my heart. I will now pursue new paths, but would welcome an opportunity to work with the club again at some point in the future. As they say - never say never."
Armed with more experience playing overseas in the last few seasons, Mark Hartmann and Pika Minegishi make their return to the Philippines, this time linking up with three-time Philipines Football League champion Ceres-Negros.
The Busmen have a busy year ahead starting with the AFC Champions League preliminary stage qualifying and they would need every bit of their depth and quality to go far in Asia’s most prestigious club competition.
That is where Thai League veterans Hartmann and Minegishi are expected to come in as they look to reinforce an already potent attacking force that includes Bienve Marañon, Robert Lopez Mendy and Stephan Schrock.
After impressive stints at Loyola Meralco and Global FC, Hartmann ventured overseas, playing for clubs in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, where he spent the last two seasons.
The 27-year-old earned a recall to the national team last year following strong performances in T1.
A fleet-footed attacker with an eye for goal, Minegishi was once hailed as the best player in the league in the Philippines after leading Global to the UFL crown in 2016.
He has been playing in Thailand since 2018, making his T1 debut at Pattaya United before transferring to Chiangmai United in the second division the following season.
“They (Hartmann and Minegishi) will certainly help the club achieve our goals this season,” said club administrator Nicolas Golez. “It is always tough to maintain or surpass the level every season, but as a club, we are committed to represent club football in the Philippines the best way we can.”
The AFC Champions League group stage has been a target for the Busmen in the past two years. They came close in 2018 when they beat Shan United on penalties in the first phase, before pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the competition by stunning Brisbane Roar, 3-2, in Australia.
But a 0-2 defeat at Tianjin Quanjian in China ended their hopes of qualification. Last year, the Busmen bowed out in the first phase after losing to Yangon United, 2-1, at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
The Busmen will be playing their Champions League preliminary game this time at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Jan. 14 when they face Shan United anew. A win will send them to the next round against Thailand’s Port FC.
“We are optimistic of a strong showing for the season ahead,” said Golez. “A new season always brings excitement to the players and the fans.”