Group G: Persija Jakarta (IDN) 2-3 Ceres Negros (PHI)
Jakarta: Ceres-Negros pulled off a sensational 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Indonesia’s Persija Jakarta to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group G and take a giant step into the AFC Cup knockout stages at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Tuesday.
What was to be an epic match opened in appropriately exciting fashion with chances at either end in the first 10 minutes.
First Novri Setiwan’s angled effort from inside the area after three minutes was kept out, before Ceres midfielder Kevin Ingreso saw his own close-range attempt denied by a smart save from Andritany Ardhiyasa.
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The hosts then had a golden chance to open the scoring on 20 minutes when centre-back Super brought down Persija midfielder Sandi Sute inside the area, but Bruno Matos’ attempt from the spot was poorly struck, allowing Roland Muller to parry and then gather at the second attempt.
There were few further chances, but plenty of physical challenges, in the remainder of the first half, but the hosts needed just four minutes following the restart to open the scoring.
Sandi was first to captain Ismed Sofyan’s free-kick from the right, and he beat Muller at the near post with a firm header.
Ceres could have restored parity within just two minutes, but heroics from Andritany saw him keep out Bienvenido Maranon’s speculative effort and then more impressively OJ Porteria on the rebound.
And the double-save proved vital as just before the hour mark Matos doubled the lead to secure redemption for his penalty miss.
Novri’s header from a set-piece split Ceres’ defence and the Brazilian coolly collected and finished past Muller.
The visitors were given hope on 70 minutes, though, when substitute Miguel Tanton’s in-swinging free-kick from the left evaded attackers, defenders and goalkeeper alike to find the top right corner.
And the tournament’s leading scorer Bienvenido Maranon levelled the scores in stunning fashion with five minutes remaining after heading home Stephan Schrock’s left-wing cross.
But there was yet more drama to come in stoppage time when, from an almost identical position on the left wing, Schrock put in another in-swinger which was stabbed home on the volley by Mike Ott to complete a shock turnaround for the Filipino champions.
The victory sees Ceres go five points clear at the top of Group G with a trip to Myanmar's Shan United to come on May 1 - a win there would seal first place in the group and a ticket to the knockout stages.
Persija, meanwhile must claim all three points against Vietnam's Becamex Binh Duong and hope that results go in their favour to remain in with a chance of being the best second placed side in the ASEAN Zone.
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