CERES Negros FC will begin its campaign in the 2019 AFC Cup ASEAN zonal semifinals when it battles Hanoi FC of Vietnam in the first leg of the two-leg series tonight at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.
Game time is at seven in the evening with the Negros Occidental-based team aiming to draw first blood and defend its ASEAN title before the two-game series shifts to Vietnam on June 25.
Ceres-Negros is expected to rely once again on Spanish striker Bienvenido Marañon, who is the co-top scorer in the group stage with nine conversions along with Hanoi’s Ganiyu Oseni.
“I believe that this year we played in the toughest group in the tournament. So every match we took part in we enjoyed and played as if it were a final,” Marañon said in an interview with AFC.com.
“I am looking forward to facing them. I know they have one of the best squads in Southeast Asia and both home and away matches are sure to be difficult,” added the Spaniard.
Marañon also said that he is motivated to steer the Ceres-Negros all the way in the AFC Cup this year after he missed last year’s Zonal Finals round due to suspension slapped on him.
“We were able to win and make it to the (Zonal) finals (last year), but I was unable to play against Home United due to a red card I received,” he said. “Indeed, missing out on the 2018 finals has given me a lot of motivation this year to return to that stage.”
Ceres Negros reach the zonal semifinals after finishing on top of Group G standings. Hanoi, on the other hand, qualified for the semis after lording over Group F finishing on top with 13 points./PN