Ceres-La Salle’s campaign in the AFC Cup ended in heartbreaking fashion Tuesday night after losing 1-0 in extra time to South China of Hong Kong in their round of 16 match at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
Brazilian Luiz Carlos scored the winning goal in the 16th minute of extra time as South China capitalized on Ceres’ missed opportunities to progress in the two-legged quarterfinals of Asia’s second-tier club competition.
The loss spoiled what was an impressive debut for Ceres in the competition that saw the Busmen earn the distinction as the first Filipino club to reach the knockout stage.
Ceres also topped Group E after winning three games and drawing the same number of matches, with Spanish striker Adrian Gallardo leading the charge with eight goals, third-most by any player during the group stage.
However, Gallardo, compatriot Bienvenido Maranon and Azkals mainstays Stephan Schrock and Manny Ott couldn’t find the back of the net during the grueling match to suffer an early exit.
“We didn’t capitalize on our goalscoring opportunities and the goal happened because of a mistake that sometimes we cannot avoid,” said Ceres coach Frank Muescan as quoted by the AFC’s official website. “They capitalized on that mistake and converted it into a goal.”
Despite the defeat, Ceres hopes to use the experience to boost its chances on the domestic front with its defense of the United Football League crown, and its upcoming appearance in the Singapore Cup when it plays Cambodian side NagaWorld on Sunday.
“We’re very confident we can do a lot better in the next campaign and we have learnt a lot from this experience,” said Muescan, who shares the coaching duties with Ali Go.
“The AFC Cup is played at a high level and we feel we are almost there. We were so unlucky tonight but that’s football.”