Ceres battles Shan in knockout first round

Ceres battles Shan in knockout first round

Even with a short preparation time, Ceres-Negros coach Risto Vidakovic expects a strong performance from his side as it begins its quest for a place in the group stage of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday night.

The Busmen, the three-time Philippines Football League winners, take on Myanmar League champion Shan United in a knockout game at 7:30 p.m. at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. Interestingly, the match will pit two clubs that did not lose a single game in their respective leagues last season. Shan United, however, lost to Ceres twice in the AFC Cup group stage last year.

Still, Vidakovic knows it will be a tough proposition for Ceres, which only started training last week.

The Serbian also trusts his players not to use this as an excuse as the Busmen seek to progress against Port FC of Thailand next week in Bangkok. Japanese League powerhouse Tokyo FC await the survivor of the first two rounds in the final phase of the qualifying process.

“It’s going to be a very hard game because this is our first match this year,” Vidakovic said. “I cannot say that we are ready 100 percent because we just had three training sessions, and nobody is match-fit enough. It’s impossible to be prepared but we have to forget excuse and show the desire to win.”

The threat of the match being postponed actually loomed on Monday with the ashfall brought by the activity of Taal Volcano reaching Metro Manila. But organizers said the match will go on as scheduled, although some match officials had been stranded in Bangkok early Monday due to the closure of the airport in Manila.

Spanish striker Beinve Marañon and Azkals star Stephan Schrock are expected to lead the Busmen, who added Filipino Mark Hartmann, Josh Grommen and Pika Minegishi to strengthen its squad. INQ