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Ceres-Negros FC a step closer to Champions League Group Stage

Stephan Schrock scored in the 51st minute for Ceres. Ceres Negros FC

Stephan Schrock secured the lone goal to push Ceres-Negros past Port FC of Thailand, 1-0, in the second round of the AFC Champions League qualifiers at the PAT Stadium in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

The match got off to a tense start, with both clubs slowly finding their rhythm. Despite the hosts grabbing the lion's share of possession, the Philippine-based squad wasted scoring chances from Bienvenido MaraƱon and Mike Ott.

The hosts finished the opening 45 minutes as they more threatening side, but neither squad could nick the opener.

Port FC continued to be more dangerous after the break as they piled the pressure on the Ceres backline, but it was the Busmen who struck first. Busmen captain Stephan Schrock whipped in a cross from a short corner that the Port keeper deflected into his own net for the first goal six minutes after the restart.

With Port FC reeling from conceding the opening goal, Ceres actually had a chance to double up their lead just a few moments later. Fortunately for the Thai team, Pika Minegishi saw his strike from the left side punched away.

Trailing at home, under the heavy gaze of six thousand home fans, Port FC continued to labor for an equalizer. Despite getting into threatening attacking positions, the Thai team had difficulty breaking down the Filipino club.

Port kept knocking on the door of the Ceres defenders, stringing together three dangerous chances in quick succession between the 69th and 72nd minute. Midfielder Takashi Odawara also saved the clean sheet with a goal line clearance after Adisak Kraisorn's strike beat keeper Roland Muller in the 78th minute.

Desperate defending from the Philippine club continued to frustrate the Thai team, with every single Ceres outfield player defending deep within their own territory. Schrock even had the chance to finish the game with a flourish, but could not take advantage on a three-on-one breakaway in injury time.

Even though they could not get another goal, Ceres' defensive efforts in the face of relentless Port FC attacks proved to be enough. The Busmen successfully held on to the clean sheet to secure their ticket to the next round of qualifiers.

Ceres-Negros will play FC Tokyo in the play-off round of the qualifiers on January 28. The winner of that match will qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League competition proper.