2016 AFC Cup: Ceres-La Salle tops Group E after rainy evening win in Bacolod
Santino Honasan on Apr 13, 2016 12:14 AM
Carly De Murga (14) and Bienvenido Maranon celebrate after Maranon scored the opening goal in Ceres-La Salle's 2-1 win over Singapore's Tampines Rovers
Strong rains, an hour delay, and a flooded pitch didn’t stop Ceres-La Salle from earning three valuable points at home, as they defeated Singapore’s Tampines Rovers, 2-1, Tuesday evening at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.
With kickoff originally scheduled for seven in the evening, strong rains and lighting, seemingly out of nowhere, forced match officials to suspend action until the rain let up. At around 8 PM, action got underway.
Around twenty minutes into the match, the Singaporean visitors were called for a handball inside the box, awarding the home side with a penalty and a chance to go up early. Bienvenido Maranon made sure of that, calmly sinking the penalty for the lead at the 21st minute.
Around fifteen minutes later, the Tampines Rovers were again called for an infraction when one of their defenders took down Ceres’ Adrian Gallardo with a hard foul, again inside the box, leading to another penalty.
Gallardo, Ceres’ leading goal scorer, opted to take the penalty himself, and converted, pushing the home team’s lead to 2-0 just before halftime.
Down a couple of goals with one more half left to play, Tampines coach V Sundram Moorthy decided to put in a couple of his big guns in Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet, both coming in at the start of the second half. Immediately, the two provided a spark, as the visitors got more aggressive and had significantly more chances and attempts than they had in the first 45.
In the 64th minute, Mehmet managed to pull one back, volleying the ball over Ceres keeper Louie Casas, making things a bit more interesting.
While Webb, Mehmet, and Jermaine Pennant made sure that the visitors were on the aggressive for much of the second half, it was the stellar defensive effort of Casas that prevented any equalizer from materializing.
With four minutes of stoppage time added, Tampines had one more attempt at to pull even, but to no avail and Ceres-La Salle escaped with a big win in front of their hometown crowd.
“From the start, we worked hard for it, and even though this is our first time in the AFC, we want to prove to the world that we can compete with these big teams,” Man of the Match Casas said after the game.
“We’re playing well right now, and every game is special to us.” Casas added.
The win pushes Ceres-La Salle to the top of the Group E standings, with two wins and two draws for eight points.
Tampines and Selangor of Malaysia are right behind, both tied with seven points, while Bangladesh’s Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi have been eliminated, failing to earn any points in four games played.
With two games left, Ceres-La Salle has a huge chance of clinching a spot in the knockout stages.