MANILA, Philippines – The defending champion Ceres-Negros inched closer to a second major title this year with a 2-0 blanking of arch-rival Iloilo, 2-0, yesterday in the semifinals of the PFF-Suzuki U23 National Cup at the Gov. Mariano Perdices Memorial Coliseum.
Ceres-Negros, boosted by its Cinderella run in the PFF-Smart National Club Championship earlier this year, banked on experience to turn back last year’s runner-up.
After a scoreless first half, Negros-Ceres came out firing in the second half with clear-cut chances early on resulting in a breakthrough goal.
Jimuel Ariola headed home a goal in the 50th minute while Azkal Joshua Beloya fired a rocket off a mad scramble on top of the box 20 minutes later to seal the Bacolod-based club's return trip to the finals.
Standing on their way to another title is Mevil-Davao, which went through the wringer before pulling off a huge 1-0 upset over Group A topnotcher North Cotabato in the other semis matchup.
The battle of the Mindanao teams almost went to a penalty shootout until Davao’s Francis Jay Abalunan scored the marginal goal late in the injury time.
Ceres-Negros is installed as the heavy favorite to win its second straight championship after waylaying Davao, 5-0, in their Group B elimination match.
The one-game finals showdown will be played tomorrow (May 30) at 2:30 pm in the same venue.