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Vidakovic proud of resilient Ceres Negros

Bangkok: Ceres Negros head coach Risto Vidakovic hailed his players’ professionalism as the club from the Philippines booked their place in the Playoff round of the 2020 AFC Champions League with victory over Thailand’s Port FC on Tuesday.

Stephan Schrock claimed the only goal of the game when the midfielder’s ball into the penalty area six minutes into the second half was punched over his own line by Port FC goalkeeper Worawut Srisupa and Ceres will now take on Japan’s FC Tokyo for a place in the group phase of this year’s competition.

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“I think it’s very important for the boys to believe in what we do,” said Vidakovic. “They proved today that they are really professionals, especially tactically.

“It’s very difficult to follow the plan when you’re legs are not responding. It’s very hard sometimes, but we’re conscious that we’re just in our second week of training and it’s too early for us.

“I think we moved very well, we covered each other and we helped each other on the pitch and now we have to follow this up.”

Ceres were outplayed for significant periods of the match by the home side, but with Port FC unable to make the most of their chances – especially as they chased an equaliser in the final 30 minutes of the game – the Filipinos booked their place in the next phase of the competition.

The club is returning to the playoffs two years after previously reaching the same round, where they were eliminated by Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian and Vidakovic knows his side face another major challenge against a club that finished as runners-up in last year’s J.League.

“It’s going to be another hard game, even harder than this one,” he said. “It’s an experience for the team.

“We are always fighting to win, we are tactically working on that but we also have to be realistic and sometimes it’s very hard, especially for the ASEAN countries.

“It’s not easy to qualify because you play one game outside against very strong opponents whose budget is maybe seven times higher but for us it’s an experience and we’re going there to compete.”

Schrock was delighted with his team’s performance and warned Ceres should not be written off ahead of next week’s game at Tokyo Stadium.

“We are very happy and very proud of what we’ve done today,” he said. "It’s not only the goal, it's the way we helped each other.

“The legs were gone after 60 or 70 minutes for most of us, but we can be proud of that. We are always capable of producing an upset. We worked for this and we believed in this and congratulations to our team."

Photos: Pichayapnong Khamyana / Goal Thailand

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