The race for the Golden Boot
Kuala Lumpur: When Bafetimbi Gomis bagged a brace in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-final against Al Sadd, not only did he make up for his earlier own goal en route to a 4-1 victory, he also moved joint top of the scoring charts.
Gomis and Leonardo – who has left Al Wahda to join Shabab Al Ahli since the Emirati side were eliminated – are tied with nine goals apiece, but with the Saudi team potentially having three more games to play, the Frenchman is the favourite to win the top scorer award come November 24.
But, while one more goal would see the Al Hilal target man take pole position, there remains a chasing pack who will have one eye on the accolade. Ahead of the semi-final second legs next week, the-AFC.com takes a closer look at the contenders.
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(Al Hilal – 9 goals)
Having joined Al Hilal from Turkish giants Galatasaray in mid-2018, the 34-year-old’s introduction to Asian football could hardly have gone any better, with nine goals in 11 games a superb return.
Gomis netted four goals in the group stage but a hat-trick away at domestic rivals Al Ahli in the first leg of the Round of 16 and the double against Al Sadd have been by far his most telling contributions.
The former Lyon and Marseilles man has played every minute of every game – averaging a goal every 110 minutes – and just over one in three of his attempts (34.62%) have found the back of the net.
Perhaps surprisingly, just one of Gomis’ goals has come in Riyadh, something he will look to rectify in the second leg against Al Sadd as the striker looks to move on to double figures.
(Al Wahda – 9 goals)
The fact Leonardo remains in the race to be crowned top scorer is largely down to a hugely impressive four-goal haul against Al Rayyan in the group stage.
The Brazilian registered eight goals in total in the group stage as the Abu Dhabi club advanced to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2007.
Leonardo added another in the Round of 16 defeat to Al Nassr to take him to nine goals in just seven games, with one every 70 minutes and a shot conversion rate of just over 39% an incredible return.
Notably, an assist in the second leg against Al Nassr means Leonardo would finish above Gomis should the pair finish on nine goals apiece and the latter fails to create a goal in his remaining games.
(Urawa Red Diamonds – 7 goals)
With Urawa Red Diamonds taking a two-goal lead into their second leg against Guangzhou Evergrande, Shinzo Koroki, two behind Gomis, remains a serious threat for the top scorer prize.
The diminutive Japanese forward netted four goals in his side’s victorious 2017 campaign but has hit even greater heights this time round, particularly in the knockout rounds.
Three group stage goals were followed with a crucial double away at Ulsan Hyundai in the last 16 before he scored home and away in the quarter-final victory over Shanghai SIPG.
Having started every game for Urawa, the 33-year-old boasts a goal every 139 minutes, while well over half of his 11 shots on target have ended up in the back of the net.
(Guangzhou Evergrande – 5 goals)
Had injury not struck Anderson Talisca in the group stage, the Brazilian may well have been much closer to the leading duo rather than considered a rank outsider.
The attacking midfielder scored four goals in his first three games, but sat out from Matchday Five until the first leg of the quarter-finals, returning to score the decisive goal to oust holders Kashima Antlers.
40' GOAL! 1-0 Guangzhou Evergrande (1-0 on aggregate)— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) September 18, 2019
Talisca gets away from his marker and attacks the corner with authority to give the Chinese side a HUGE lead!#KASvGUA #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/KlcCT9QNDS
However, the 25-year-old will need to perform wonders to help Guangzhou overhaul a two-goal deficit against Urawa and leave himself in with a chance of finishing as leading scorer.
A goal every 122 minutes is superior to Koroki and, despite playing four fewer games, he has registered more shots (22-19) than the Urawa striker. He will, though, need to improve a shooting accuracy of just 50%.
(Al Sadd – 4 goals)
Like Talisca, for Al Sadd’s leading scorer Akram Afif to finish on top of the pile would take some doing given that the Qatari side start the second leg against Al Hilal 4-1 down.
With the prolific Baghdad Bounedjah not enjoying the same fortune in front of goal as he did in 2018, Afif has stepped forward, scoring three of his four goals in the knockout rounds.
26' GOAL!! Al Sadd SC 1-0!@AlSaddSC are back level in this @TheAFCCL quarterfinal tie as Akram Afif gives Xavi's side the lead in the second leg as he heads in from a Nam Tae-hee cross. #ACL2019 #SDDvNSR pic.twitter.com/1QSHLMbC8N— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) September 16, 2019
The 22-year-old has played a game less than Gomis and Koroki and scored at a rate of just once every 225 minutes; however, a shooting accuracy just shy of 65% is by far the best of the five contenders.
Al Sadd’s task of overhauling the deficit seems unlikely but, if they do, Afif has three games to score at least five goals. Unlikely, but the forward was part of a Qatar side that proved miracles do happen earlier in 2019.
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