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Ceres tests South China’s mettle

Game Today (Panaad Stadium, Bacolod City)
7:30 p.m. – Ceres vs South China

Ceres-La Salle is out to prove that its entry in the knockout stage of the AFC Cup was no fluke as it battles Hong Kong side South China tonight in the round of 16 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.

The Busmen look to capitalize on the home field advantage coupled with the form that made them top Group E of Asia’s second-tier club competition as they play South China in a one-game tussle for a spot in the two-legged quarters at 7:30 p.m.

The match is the kickoff to a busy international week for local clubs playing in the United Football League.

Kaya faces an uphill battle against defending AFC Cup champion Johor Darul Ta’zim tomorrow in their round of 16 affair in Johor Bahru, Malaysia while Ceres and UFL Cup champion Global meet separate clubs in the preliminary round of the Singapore Cup this weekend.

Ceres became the first Filipino team to clinch a round of 16 berth in the AFC Cup after going unbeaten in the group stage with three victories and three draws.

Much of that impressive showing has been credited to Spanish striker Adrian Gallardo, who scored eight goals in the group stage highlighted by a hat trick at home against Sheikh Jamal two weeks ago.

However, Ceres’ run of form would be put to naught if it fails to outlast South China, which finished second in Group G but is expected to be a tough customer once it steps on the Panaad pitch.

The Busmen of coaches Frank Muescan and Ali Go have a chance to end the Philippine dryspell against Hong Kong teams in the AFC Cup.

Hong Kong clubs have won all four matches against their Philippine clubs, with South China beating Global twice last year and Kitchee trouncing Kaya by the same amount of games this year.

For Ceres to win, it must have big performances from Spaniard Bienvenido Maranon, Azkals mainstays Stephan Schrock and Manny Ott, Korean defender Yong Chan Son and former national team goalkeeper Michael Casas.