Ceres, Global win big in AFC Cup with highlight goals

What a night for Philippine club football. 

On Tuesday night, March 7 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Global downed Cambodian club Boeung Ket Angkor 2-0. In a match that kicked off 30 minutes after, Ceres-Negros trampled on Singapore's Tampines Rovers, 5-0 in front of a very large crowd at Bacolod's Panaad Stadium. Both Filipino clubs are now atop their respective groups after two matches. Here are the talking points. 

Glorious goals galore! Goals are pretty much the only thing most casual Filipino football fans understand. That's why it drives me nuts when televised matches, whether they be UAAP, UFL or Azkals games, finish goalless. 0-0 is bad TV and turns off casual fans. 

There was none of that on Tuesday as the Filipino clubs produced 7 goals, some of them of true world-class quality. 

Five minutes into the game in Phnom Penh, former Azkal Paul Mulders delivers a piledriver of a volley from outside the box that thundered into the roof of the net. Watch it 15 seconds into this clip.

Thirty minutes later, Iain Ramsay, playing some sort of game of “anything you can do, I can do better,” produced one of the most technically excellent goals scored by a Filipino in recent memory. His ludicrous outside-of-the-boot left-footed swerver is best appreciated from the rear replay beginning at :22 of this clip.

FIFA gives out the Puskas award for the best goal of the year. It's named after the famed Hungarian striker Ferenc Puskas. Ramsay's strike might not win it, but if there was a Puskas award just for the Asian Confederation, I am sure this would be shortlisted. It deserves to go viral internationally. 

Manny Ott wanted to join the fun, so after Bienve Marañon makes it 2-0, he gets Ceres' third, a missile from the corner of the box. The fourth goal, also by Marañon, will be appreciated by the cognoscenti for the Spaniard's ball-deflating first touch off a long looping pass. 

The keepers sparkled too. Patrick Deyto made a few solid stops, one a double save on a play that didn't make the AFC's highlights edit. The one in the edit required him to make a cat-quick reaction on a very strong shot. 

In Bacolod his fellow Azkal Roland Müller was also in form, smothering quite a few attempts from the Singaporeans. The game was closer early in the second half than what the final score suggests. Müller certainly deserves the shutout. 

The Azkals play a home friendly against Malaysia on March 22 then tackle Nepal, also at home, 6 days later. No doubt Neil Etheridge will be the the favorite to wear the gloves, especially for the qualifier. But with Deyto and Müller in-form, we know he has competition. 

Watching both games at the same time was a hoot. I took in both matches in Howzat, my regular sports bar. I arranged for the two matches to show up on adjacent monitors. I was swiveling back and forth during the one and a half hours when the matches overlapped. I actually missed the first two goals in the Ceres game because we had the audio set to the Global game and was paying attention to that. 

During the half of the Ceres game they were showing the replay of Ramsay's goal. That happened at the exact same time that Mulders was scoring a penalty on live TV in the other game to make it 2-0. I ended up focusing on neither play!

On one monitor, Global was in blue. On the other monitor, Ceres' opponent was in blue, causing me great confusion. Taking tactical notes was an impossibility. It was one crazy, weird and confusing experience but I will never forget it.

Our club football is doing great internationally, but what about our league? I can only hope that potential sponsors for the upcoming Philippines Football League were observing the games last Tuesday. Let's pray that they can spot the potential for these teams and this league. 

The PFL is supposed to begin on April 22. I think that it should start in May, after the UAAP plays its title game on April 30. At any rate, there is a whole lot of work to be done and not a lot of time. There is no official announcement on which of the 8 teams are finally approved to start play. There doesn't seem to be a broadcaster. There isn't even a league logo, much less a website nor any social media accounts. There appears to be lots of meetings going on but precious little info is getting out. 

This “just add water” approach to starting a professional league on such short notice leaves a lot of fans very concerned. Hopefully there will be announcements soon and we will have a clearer picture of where we are headed. 

Spare a thought for Son Yong Chan and his huge heart. Tampines defender Son Yong Chan made a bittersweet return to Panaad, where he played for two years for Ceres. Victorino Son, as he is also known, was beloved in Bacolod not just for his stellar play but also for his effervescent personality and terrific sense of humor. 

Son keeps Bacolod close to his heart, to the extent that he is trying to raise funds so that a young Negrense girl can have what appears to be a life-saving surgery for major intestinal problems. He is offering to sell his scooter to raise the P100,000 for the girl's medical expenses. Details are here.

This country has treated me well, became my home, and taught me how to be a stronger and better person. Please help me fulfill my wish to do this final gesture of appreciation,” the Korean writes on his post. 

If you'd like to pitch in, do comment on the Facebook post. Son may have been on the losing side on Tuesday, but one youngster just might end up being the biggest winner. – Rappler.com 

AFC Cup upcoming matches
Johor Darul Ta'zim vs Global
8:45 pm Tuesday, March 14
Stadium Tan Sri Dato' Haji Yunos, Johor Bahru, Malaysia 
Ceres-Negros vs Felda United
7:30 pm Wednesday, March 15
Panaad Stadium, Bacolod 
Telecast details can be found on http://tv.foxsportsasia.com/ 

Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.