Three years after winning its first national football title in the PFF – Smart National Club Championship, Ceres-La Salle FC sealed its place in the country's football history by advancing into the Round of 16 of the AFC Cup 2016 Tuesday night.
A scoreless draw against host Selangor FA of Malaysia, several minutes after Bangladesh team Sheikh Jamal pulled off a 3-2 upset against Singapore's Tampines Rovers in the Group E Qualifiers, lifted Ceres into the knockout stage of the AFC Cup.
“It is a big achievement for Philippine football and we are proud because all our hardworks paid off,” head coach Franklin Muescan said.
“We've been preparing for six months and we are harvesting the fruits of our labor,” he added.
Muescan said that their qualification into the next round is historic and the Ceres-La Salle is where it is right now because of the full support from its team owner, Leo Rey Yanson.
“He made it all possible. His all out support motivates everyone and this is how the team respond,” Muescan said.
He added that the May 10 home game at the Panaad Stadium against Sheikh Jamal will be a very exciting match.
“Whatever happens in the last game, we are now safely advancing into the next round. Still, all of us are excited as it will be our last in the Group Stage and it is a home game,” Muescan added.
Goalkeeper Michael Casas, the former veteran national campaigner who had been with Ceres since it debuted into the UFL, said the team stepped up against Selangor despite injuries among the players.
“We did our best and we were able to get what we aimed for…qualifying into the next round. The continued support of our family and the management make all of us work hard. This is for us and for our province, Negros,” Casas, who hails from Cebu, said.
During the match against Selangor, Muescan noted that the team was disorganized in the first 10 minutes but managed to get their bearings in time.
The team did not give up down to the last man, and everyone showed the right heart and spirit, the Ceres head coach said.
Despite the loss, Selangor still has the chance to qualify in the Round of 16 if the team beats Tampines in Singapore on May 10.*NAB
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