Ceres's AFC Cup run end after Istiklol draw

Photo by AFC/Lagardere Sports
By Kevin Estrada

BACOLOD -- It was the end of the road for Ceres Negros in the AFC Cup, after Istiklol stifled them and were forced to share the honors in the second leg of their Interzonal semifinal in Panaad tonight.

The 1-1 draw was enough for the Tajik treble winners to go through to the final with a 5-1 aggregate after a wet and wild encounter.

Needing a five-goal triumph to overturn a 4-0 first leg deficit in Dushanbe a forthnight ago, Risto Vidakovic going all out with a more attacking 3-4-3 that featured Stephan Schrock, Bienvenido Maranon and Fernando Rodriguez up front.

However, Istiklol's backline were up to the task and Nikola Stosic stood out for the visitors, snuffing out so many chances in the first half-hour to frustrate the 4,752 home fans.

Ceres ultimately found the net in the 34th minute with a Super Herrera header off Manny Ott's corner to give a sembalce of life to Panaad.

However Dmitri Barkov's volley into the first half added time all but ended the tie, coming off a wonderful chip by David Mawutor inside the box.

The Busmen went on attack mode early at the restart as they seek to get five goals to overturn the huge deficit.

However, the Spanish numero nueve effectively put the final nail on the coffin after muffing his open, close-ranged effort over the bar in the 50th minute.

Istiklol paid a huge price after moving on to face either India's Bengaluru and North Korea's April 25, will they lose Mawutor, Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev and Artem Baranovski for the first leg, with the Ukrainian was given marching orders for a stamp on Kevin Ingreso 20 minutes before full time.

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