Cinderella Ceres completes fairy tale ending
Alder Almo (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2013 - 5:38am

MANILA, Philippines – In one magical night, Ceres completed its fairy tale run with a happy ending.

The Cinderella squad from Bacolod captured the Philippine Football Federation (PFF)-Smart National Club Championship with a hard-earned 1-nil victory over an undermanned Pasargad Saturday night at the historic Rizal Memorial Football Stadium to essay one of the feel-good stories in local football history.

Beating one giant after another, Ceres proved that its magical run to the Finals was no fluke with a great escape in what it considered to be its worst game in the tournament.  The St. La Salle Bacolod-based club had beaten three of the strongest United Football League teams in cup champion Stallion (1-0), league champion Global (1-0) and runner-up Kaya (3-1) leading to the finals.

But against a Pasargad squad that was missing four key players including starting keeper Reza Ataei and defender Jahambaksh Taher, who were suspended due to red cards, Ceres almost fell victim to a sense of complacency. The provincial team, however, recovered its bearings in the second half to pull off the victory.

Korean import Byeong Jeong Yoon came through with the marginal goal after a mad scramble for the ball in the 56th minute. Yoon connected on a loose ball off a missed attempt that was enough to deflate whatever balloon of confidence Pasargad had built in a scoreless first half.

“We didn’t play according to our game plan in the first 30 minutes. That (winning) goal was not part of our game plan. We felt that we needed to score to break down Pasargad’s defense which just sat at the back in the first half,” Ceres team manager Ali Go said. “Our players looked tired in the first half.”

True enough that early second half goal broke the spirits of Pasargad. Ceres would missed several chances in the latter part of the match to increase its lead but it did not matter as Pasargad ran out of luck in contrast to its previous wins leading to a surprise finals appearance.

“I didn’t expect to score in the finals but I’m happy my teammates helped me. We couldn’t make it without the fans’ support,” Yoon said.

Infront of a festive crowd, mostly clad in yellow to support the Cinderella team, Ceres did not disappoint as the club won the title and almost swept the individual awards.

Yoon was adjudged the Most Valuable Player while his teammates Joshua Beloya (Best Midfielder), Jae Hun Hyeon (best goalkeeper) Keon Hyeong Park (best defender) shared individual honors with him.  Chieffy Caligdong, who recently transferred to the Green Archers United-Globe after almost a decade of service to former UFL champion Phil. Air Force, was the only non-Ceres player that managed an individual podium finish with the Golden Boot award after registering a tournament-high four goals.

The Fair Play award was also given to the Archers.

Kaya, meanwhile, won the third place courtesy of first half goals from Alu Kigbu and Antonio Ugarte, at the expense of the Archers.

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