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Ceres stops Tampines to reach Group E summit

By Kevin Estrada

BACOLOD--Ceres have to survive an hour of rain delay and a second half charge from Tampines Rovers as they deposed them from the top of Group E in a wet and wild AFC Cup encounter between erstwhile unbeaten sides with a 2-1 win on Tuesday night at the Panaad Stadium.

The Spanish duo of Bienve Marañon and Adrian Gallardo converted their respective penalties within the first 36 minutes of the match to seal all three points for Ali Go and Frank Muescan to shove the Busmen ahead of Group E on 8 points and remain undefeated after four matches.

Substitute Billy Mehmet pulled one back midway into the second half, but it was not enough for the S-League side as their unbeaten streak came to an end here with their first defeat in the competition.

Despite tied with Malaysia's Selangor with seven points following the Red Giants win over Bangladeshi side Sheikh Jamal, V. Sundaramoorthy's Stags will still take second due to their away win on Matchday 2.

Ceres drew first blood in the 21st minute with Marañon slotting his penalty low into dead center after center-back Kwon Jun was adjudged to handle the ball.

Hafiz Sujad thought that they have beaten Louie Casas to equalizer at the half-hour mark off a counter, but it was nullified after the linesman caught Fazrul Nawaz offside in the goalmouth.

Adrian then doubled the hosts' advantage six minutes later, blasting his spot kick in to the top right corner after he was shoved down inside the box to register his fifth goal of the tournament as they went to the changing rooms with a comfortable cushion.

The Stags made changes before the restart with the introduction of Webb and Mehmet boosting the visitor's chances of mounting a comeback.

However, the Ceres defense held firm in the first 15 minutes of the second half, punctuated by a Casas save in the 56th minute.

Mehmet pulled a goal three minutes after the hour mark, latching on a Nawaz through ball that bounced off Kim Sang-Min just seconds after the former Liverpool winger came on for Hafiz Sujad.

With the momentum shifted to their favor, Tampines shifted to higher gear as they went on a full offensive to get an equalizer in the last 27 minutes of the match but Webb, Kwon Jun and Mustafic Fahrudin had their efforts off the mark.

Ceres kept their nerve in the dying moments, punctuated by a gallant defensive stand in the third added minute, to finally get their first home win of the competition.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada