Selangor began their AFC Cup campaign with a 2-2 draw over Ceres La Salle at the Paanad Stadium in Bacolod, Philippines, with goals from Mauro Olivi and Hafiz Kamal earning a point for the Red Giants in their first Group E match.
Selangor travelled to Philippines without injured defender Robert Cornthwaite, who has been a huge miss for Zainal Abidin’s side. Selangor captain Shahrom Kalam partnered Razman Roslan in the heart of defence.
Ceres FC, founded in 2012, started their AFC Cup journey against the Red Giants brightly as the United Football League (UFL) champions passed the ball around well with great supporting movements from the players.
Ali Go’s men took the first shot of the game through ex-Hoffenheim and Frankfurt forward Stephan Schröck, who blasted it wide on the 10th minute.
Spanish international Bienvenido Marañón attempted a volley at goal five minutes later but it was brilliantly saved by Selangor goalkeeper Norazlan Razali, who pushed it out for a corner.
Shortly after, Stephan Schröck drew first blood as his left-footed shot from outside the box curled past Norazlan in goal. The German-born attacker scored with his weaker foot and the goal brought all 15,000 of the fans in the stadium to their feet.
Bienvenido Marañón could have doubled Ceres’ lead on the 25th minute but his powerful but inaccurate shot went wide.
The Red Giants had a few tricks up their sleeves as Mauro Olivi ambitiously took a shot from 30 yards out. Selangor midfielder Nazmi Faiz, who just returned from injury, saw both his attempts sail just above the crossbar.
Selangor surprisingly equalized ten minutes from half time after Ceres goalkeeper Louie Michael Casas hesitated and kicked the ball against Mauro Olivi, which bounced back to set up the Argentinian for his first AFC Cup goal. He immediately ran down the touchline to celebrate with head coach Zainal Abidin.
Selangor almost took the lead after the break as Olivi’s shot just hit the post.
It was Ceres’ turn to attack as Kevin Ingreso played a smart one-two with Marañón before missing the goal by a few inches. Manuel Ott came close to taking the lead again for Ceres but his shot was comfortably saved by Norazlan.
Marañón then had a goal disallowed as Martin Steuble was ruled offside as he crossed it in for the Spanish forward. The linesman raised his flag which flew in the air and some fans were confused as if it was a game of American football.
A few minutes later, Mauro Olivi was fouled outside Louie Casas’ box and ex-Pahang midfielder Hafiz Kamal scored his second goal of the season with a free kick (scored a free kick against Johor DT too). The Selangor fans in the Panaad Stadium went wild.
Adrián Gallardo, the UFL’s Golden Boot winner in 2015, made a brilliant run but Norazlan did just enough to stop the Spanish striker from equalizing. However, in the dying minutes of the game, he headed in the equalizer after a great cross from Stephan Schröck.
The referee blew the full time whistle and both teams will be content with a point.