Playing his role as the lead striker to perfection, Bienvenido Maranon, popularly known as Bienve, produced a hat-trick to power visiting Ceres Negros to a commanding 4-0 win over Cambodian champions Boeung Ket in their AFC Cup Group F encounter at Olympic Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Substitute Takumi Uesato nailed the fourth goal six minutes before the final whistle for the Philippine champions, who once again asserted their superiority over Boeung Ket in much the same vibrant fashion as in their 9-0 home win at the start of the campaign.
The victory was doubly sweet for coach Risto Vidakovic’s men as the win sealed the side a place in the knockout stage for the third straight year.
Unbeaten Ceres lead the group with 13 points ahead of Singapore’s Home United, who closed the gap to three points following their 3-2 win over Myanmar’s Shan United at the Jalan Basar Stadium.
Boeung Ket travel to the Thuwanna Stadium in Yangon for their return clash against Shan United on April 25, while Ceres Negros invite Home United to the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City on the same day.
Going in with an attacking formation that had Bienve as the spearhead in front of the strong midfield trio of OJ Porteria, Stephan Schrock and Patrick Reichelt, the coach clearly made his aggressive intent clear.
The visitors’ strategy worked so effectively that within the first 20 minutes Ceres had two gilt-edged chances that narrowly missed the target and a goal disallowed for offside.
While Boeung Ket’s odd counter play came from Brazilian Maycon Calijuri and his partner Julius Oiboh, the pair hardly worried in the Ceres defence.
The defending Cambodian league champions could not keep the marauding Bienve at bay and in the 36th minute he opened the scoring. The 31-year-old Spanish attacking midfielder found the mark following combination play that set him up nicely for the kill.
Barely two minutes later Bienve doubled the lead as the Boeung Ket backline came under renewed pressure.
There was no let-up from the visitors in the second half and Bienve deservedly completed his hat-trick in the 69th minute.
It was symbolic of the dominance Ceres enjoyed throughout the game and it was left to substitute Uesato to add the fourth in the 84th minute.