Group G - MD1: Ceres Negros FC 4-0 Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC
Manila: Competition heavyweights Ceres Negros FC underlined their AFC Cup title credentials on Tuesday as a comfortable 4-0 win over debutants Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC from Cambodia saw them begin their 2020 Continental campaign in emphatic fashion.
Ceres, who lost out to FC Tokyo in the final round of qualifying for this year’s AFC Champions League, dominated throughout on a night when star striker Bienvenido Marañon scored twice to propel his side to top spot in the Group G standings.
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Looking to progress to the competition’s knockout phase for a fifth successive season, Ceres were quickly into their stride at the Rizal Memorial Stadium as Senegalese import Robert Lopez Mendy fired over when through on goal within the opening 10 minutes.
The home side’s early domination was, though, to pay handsome dividends shortly after when Takashi Odawara collected OJ Porteria’s pass and drilled a shot beyond Aim Sovannarath’s despairing dive and into the bottom corner.
With Svay Rieng clearly rattled, Ceres duly made it two in two minutes, this time Joshua Grommen bundling the ball home at the far post following Stephan Schröck’s looping cross.
In what was proving to be an absorbing contest, Svay Rieng then spurned a glorious chance to drag themselves back into the match, Thiago Santos seeing his 23rd minute penalty superbly saved by Roland Müller after Jean Befolo Mbarga had been hauled down in the area by Grommen.
As the first half drew to a close, Mendy saw an effort expertly gathered by Sovannarath, while the Cambodian custodian reacted well to spring off his line and deny Porteria from six yards moments later.
Two was to become three for Ceres some 11 minutes after the restart, Marañon, the AFC Cup’s leading goalscorer in 2019, providing a delightful finish after exchanging passes with Manny Ott.
Marañon, courtesy of a sublime finish, notched his second and Ceres’ fourth of the night on 70 minutes, before the game’s last genuine opportunity fell to substitute James Younghusband who thumped a header against the bar and Porteria narrowly failed to convert the rebound.
With only the group winners assured of a place in the next round, Ceres will look to add to their early momentum on Matchday Two when they host Vietnam’s Than Quang Ninh on February 25, the same day as Svay Rieng entertain Bali United FC.
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