From its dominance in the local football scene, Ceres-Negros FC is savoring the opportunity to put the Philippines in the map by showcasing their wares in the ongoing 2019 AFC Cup.
Backstopped by several members from the Philippine Azkals and local standouts, expect this team to go all out as they wade through Group G, which is dubbed as the “Group of Death” this season.
Ceres-Negros FC is grouped along with some of the Asia’s toughest teams in Becamex Binh Duong in Vietnam, Persija Jakarta in Indonesia, and Shan United in Myanmar.
This was to be expected though, given the caliber of talent the AFC Cup has produced over the years. The Negros-based squad, however, sees this as an opportunity to put an imprint in the Asian football scene, especially since they’ve been here before.
“Competition in the AFC is always competitive. It’s another stage, another level from the local leagues so it’s a chance for us to put the Philippines in the map and show everyone what this country can do. It’s massive. Like I said, the fact that we have AFC Cup is huge considering where our leagues come from. Yeah, it’s just another level for us to showcase our talent to the world, and to Asia just to show that we have good players in the Philippines,” said midfielder Curt Dizon.
“This is not our first time in this tournament. We have been here maybe three or four years, so we know how hard it is and that’s why we’re trying to prepare for these games. Especially this year, I think our group is the ‘Group of Death’ as they say, so we might have the hardest group in the whole tournament. We just have to keep playing hard just like we did last game and I feel like we can get a [good] result each game,” added forward OJ Porteria.
Last Tuesday, Ceres won its first fixture against Shan United with a score of 3-2. After going up 2-nil in the first half, the Myanmar-based club made a furious rally only to come up short as the Busmen pulled away in the end.
OJ Porteria chipped in two goals – including the marginal goal that decided the game, while Bienvenido Maranon put in one goal via penalty at the 37th minute.
Despite coming away with their first win, there’s still room for improvement for this team – starting from building their chemistry and shaking off rust due to a long layoff.
“There are many things because we recently started. We had a very long break from September to last month where we played our first game. Some players don’t play for six months or more and we need to adjust physically, technical-wise, anything. Also, the league is starting a little late for us, but I hope with the friendly games we played, to the tune-up games we played in Singapore, to games in the Champions League and AFC Cup, we become better and we can improve,” bared head coach Risto Vidakovic.
“The result shows itself, it was 3-2. I feel like we can close the gap and not concede two goals in a game – especially since the first half is 2-0, and we conceded two goals in the second half. We just have to improve on the little things, tweak a little, watch film, and hopefully next game we can lessen the goals scored against us,” Porteria echoed.
Head coach Risto Vidakovic and the rest of the squad will have ample time to prepare as they are slated to face Becamex Binh Duong in the Go Dau Stadium in Vietnam on March 12, 2019.
“This year is more difficult than before because we have a very hard group this year – big clubs and big teams. For us it’s a good start in our first game and it’s important that we keep the three points at home, and we can play more relaxed in the next games,” acknowledged the Serbian native.