The Ceres Negros Busmen celebrate their 1-0 victory over Port FC in the second round of the AFC Champions League Qualifiers Tuesday night at PAT Stadium in Bangkok.
Ceres booters pull off shocker
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - January 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Ceres Negros FC moved one win away from claiming a historic slot in the group stage of the AFC Champions League after a 1-0 stunner on the road over Thai side Port FC in the second round of the qualifiers Tuesday night at PAT Stadium in Bangkok.

The gutsy Busmen held their own against the favored Thai FC Cup titlists and scored the winner via Stephan Schrock at the 59th minute, setting themselves up for a matchup with J-League outfit FC Tokyo in the succeeding playoff round.

The Busmen fly to Japan for Tuesday’s big test, looking to pull off a massive upset and a milestone for the Philippines in Asia’s premier club competition.

“I don’t think Port underestimated us. I think they took us seriously,” said Schrock, left to provide leadership following the departure of key players like Martin Steuble, Manny Ott, Carlie de Murga and Patrick Reichelt to teams from the Thai League 1.

“For us, it’s a great result for Philippine football. We don’t forget the people who were affected by the Taal Volcano eruption (back home). Maybe we can give those victims a smile on their faces with this result,” he added.

Engaged in a tooth and nail battle with the Port Lions, the Busmen got a bit of the break 12th minutes after restart in a game-changing set piece. Schrock launched a cross from the right that keeper Worawut Srisupa couldn’t handle, spilling the ball into the net to the shock of 6,000 home supporters.

A tough defensive stance against the rallying Lions in the stretch, highlighted by Taka Odawara’s timely clearance off Adisak Kraisorn’s potential equalizer, preserved the reversal for the visitors.

Ceres advanced to the playoff round for the second time in three years, but this time doing it with a several new faces. In 2018, the Busmen had a stacked, Azkals-filled roster and shocked A-League team Brisbane Roar in Australia in Round 2 before falling to Chinese host Tianjian Quanjian in the KO match for the ACL main draw

Schrock said they eye a different ending this time.

 “We love competition. We love challenges and to push our boundaries so we’ll go there and believe (we can make something happen),” he said.

“This is a massive result. The Thai League is the strongest in Southeast Asia so going to Tokyo to face a strong Japanese League team is a big challenge, but we didn’t look too bad when we had that game against Tianjin in the same stage two years ago. 

“We will go there and compete definitely. We’re not there just to take part. I mean we are one win away from the biggest result for the Philippines in club history so why not really go for it,” he said.         

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