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Bacolod City: FC Istiklol go into the second leg of the 2017 AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-final against Ceres Negros of the Philippines on Tuesday with a four-goal advantage after a convincing 4-0 victory in the first leg last month.

The side from Tajikistan will now start as strong favourites to book a date with India's JSW Bengaluru or 4.25 SC of DPR Korea in the two-legged Inter-Zone final, which will be played in September and October.

Ceres Negros

Ceres Negros have enjoyed an excellent AFC Cup campaign to date after being crowned inaugural ASEAN Zone champions when defeat of Singapore’s Home United set up the clash with Istiklol.

But the side from the Philippines were dealt a huge blow in Hisor with the Tajik team running rampant in a 4-0 win that leaves Ceres with an uphill challenge ahead of the return leg at Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium. 


While few will fancy the club from Bacolod City to advance any further in the competition, they can take heart from the fact they have twice scored more than four goals at home in this year’s competition. 

For that to happen again, they will need a potent frontline of Spanish duo Bienvenido Maranon and Fernando Rodriguez, as well as the likes of Jose Porteria and Iain Ramsay, to be firing on all cylinders.

FC Istiklol

Runners-up in the 2015 AFC Cup, FC Istiklol remain unbeaten in the 2017 edition, having won six and drawn one of their seven games on the continent, with August’s 4-0 home win over Ceres the best performance to date.

First-half goals from Akhtam Nazarov and Romish Dzhalilov were followed by a brace from top scorer Manuchehr Dzhalilov after the interval to leave the Central Asia Zonal champions in a commanding position ahead of their trip east. 

Istiklol have yet to concede more than one in a game in this year's competition and Ceres’ target of at least four is the same number the Dushanbe-based side have conceded in their seven games thus far.
Dzhalilov and the returning Jahongir Aliev, meanwhile, boast firepower upfront and should prove a threat on the break with Ceres likely to go all-out attack.

Key Players: First Leg Stats

Ceres Negros v FC Istiklol
Venue: Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium, Bacolod City
Kick-off: September 12, 19:30 UTC+8

Photos: Lagardère Sports