Ceres faces familiar opponents in the ASEAN Zonal semis
By Paulo Loreto Lim
With 2019 AFC Cup group stage complete, the ASEAN Zone is down to four clubs, two-time defending Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros FC, defending V.League 1 champions Hanoi FC, 2018 Vietnamese Cup champions Becamex Bình Dương FC, and 2018 Liga 1 runners-up PSM Makassar of Indonesia.
The Bacolod City-based club has a history with the two Vietnamese clubs, especially after closing this year’s group stage with a 1-0 loss to Becamex – currently, their only loss of the competition.
The ASEAN Zone semifinals pits the Negrense club against Hanoi FC; while Becamex meets PSM Makassar, which qualified after topping Group H, where they drew and defeated Kaya FC-Iloilo in their two meetings. The Ilonggo club finished third in the group and was eliminated from the competition.
In 2017, the year the Bacolod City-based club was crowned ASEAN Zone champions, Hanoi and Ceres were drawn together in Group G. The two opened that year’s group stage with a 1-1 draw. The Negrense club later dominated their second meeting, winning 6-2.
While Hanoi finished second in the group that year, they were beaten out by Malaysia Super League club Johor Darul Ta’zim FC for best second place club.
Ahead of the ASEAN Zonal semifinals, Hanoi comes in with a record of four wins, one draw, and one loss, including a massive 10-0 victory over Cambodian League club Nagaworld FC.
In terms of Becamex, aside from the aforementioned loss in the group stage, in their first meeting, Ceres won 3-1 off a hat trick from midfielder Bienvenido Marañón./PLL, WDJ