|Gabriel Guerra and Johor barely escape Ceres in the first leg of their ASEAN Zone semifinal (file)|
By Kevin Estrada
MANILA--2015 AFC Cup holders Johor Darul Ta'zim survived a massive scare by Ceres Negros to pull out a 3-2 win in the first leg of their ASEAN Zone Semifinal in Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru.
A deflected strike by Hazwan Bakri in the second half won it for Benjamin Mora's Southern Tigers in a see-saw battle as they will bring a precarious one-goal advantage to Bacolod in just a fortnight.
Gonzalo Cabrera's 18th minute strike was canceled out by two quickfire goals by the visitors seven minutes later, with the Spanish connection of Fernando Rodriguez and Bienvenido Marañon giving them a shock 2-1 lead before Safiq Rahim leveled matters with a header just before half-time for a 2-2 stalemate at the break.
Ceres became the aggressor at the start of the restart but they were made to pay by their missed chances by Bakri who had his shot deflected off Super Herrera and into the net in the 69th minute.
The Busmen had numerous chances for a third goal but they could not guide the ball past Farizal Marlias' net to remain winless in Malaysia for the fourth match running in two years, but Risto Vidakovic and company will have solace in their two away goals and the home comfort of Panaad two weeks from now, where they scored 11 of their 16 goals in the group stage.
Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada