Kuala Lumpur: The 2019 AFC Cup produced some memorable moments across the Continent and some of the brightest young stars in the Asian game showcased their talent over the course of the season.
Among them was a title winner, the competition's youngest ever goalscorer and a defender whose performances helped earn him a move to Europe, so join the-AFC.com as we highlight the achievements of five youngsters who stood out.
See also :
AFC Cup 2019: 5 Great Games
Vote for your best goal of AFC Cup 2019
AFC Cup 2019: The Top Performers
1. Doan Van Hau
Club: Hanoi FC
Doan Van Hau's year began by helping Vietnam reach the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with a string of excellent performance for the ever-improving Southeast Asian nation and his form continued into the club season.
Part of a Hanoi side that is currently dominating Vietnamese football, the left-back was in fine form in the AFC Cup as Hanoi advanced top of Group F before defeating former ASEAN Zonal champions Ceres Negros in the ASEAN Zonal semi-finals.
Victory over domestic rivals Becamex Binh Duong was Van Hau's last appearance in the 2019 competition as first injury and then a loan move to Dutch side SC Heerenveen meant he played no further part in the competition, which Hanoi ultimately exited at the Inter-Zonal final stage.
A gifted technician who offers a considerable threat going forward and a calm presence at the back, Van Hau is mature beyond his years and one of a number of young Vietnamese players who can look forward to a fruitful future in the game.
2. Thoiba Singh
Club: Minerva Punjab
Just 16 years and 154 days old when he became the youngest player to score a goal in the AFC Cup, India U-17 footballer Thoiba Singh made headlines in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu on May 15.
Making the most of Manang Marshyangdi Club goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha's failure to cut out Kalif Al Hassan's low cross, the teenager was on hand to fire home the loose ball and write his name into the tournament's record books.
The youngster had already clocked up a full 90 minutes in the previous meeting with Manang and after his goalscoring exploits would start in the Matchday Five and Six ties against Chennaiyin FC and Abahani Limited Dhaka.
While Singh was unable to scale the same heights in those two fixtures to match his moment in Nepal, he had already done enough to ensure the Continent would sit up and take notice of the precocious talent.
3. Oday Dabbagh
Club: Hilal Al Quds
Before the 2019 AFC Cup had even begun, Oday Dabbagh had already given Asia notice of his burgeoning abilities with his selection for Palestine's 2019 AFC Asian Cup squad and his appearances against the holders Australia and Jordan in the group stage.
And Dabbagh wasted little time continuing that momentum once the Continental club tournament kicked off a month later in February, scoring in both legs of the play-offs against Oman's Al Suwaiq as the Palestinian club made the tournament proper for the first time.
While Dabbagh didn't find the net in the club's opening draw against Syria's Al Jaish, he scored his debut AFC Cup goal on Matchday Two, albeit in a 6-2 losing effort against Al Wehdat of Jordan.
The next time he found himself on the scoresheet, however, it was to be a much more momentous occasion as he netted in Hilal Al Quds' historic 2-1 win over Lebanese side Nejmeh, securing their first-ever AFC Cup win.
If anything, the return meeting with Nejmeh was even sweeter as with 12 minutes remaining the 20-year-old was on target twice as his side secured a 2-1 comeback victory, the winner coming in stoppage time. Dabbagh performances did not go without notice as Kuwaiti club Al Salmiya swooped in the summer to sign the young star.
4. Ho Tan Tai
Club: Becamex Binh Duong
The second Vietnamese player on the list, Ho Tan Tai enjoyed a fine debut season in Continental football as his assured displays on the right side of Becamex Binh Duong's defence helped his team progress to the knockout rounds.
But the energetic full-back is equally adept going forward and provides a real threat from wide, delivering the second highest number of crosses (20) among players in the Binh Duong side despite playing just eight of their 10 games.
Tan Tai's most telling contribution came in the ASEAN Zonal semi-final away at Indonesia's PSM Makassar when his superb cross teed up striker Wander Luiz for the goal that ultimately proved decisive as the Vietnamese side advanced on away goals before exiting to Hanoi.
Part of Vietnam's squad at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, Tan Tai has yet to make his international debut having represented his nation at youth level, but if his steady development continues it is unlikely to be too long before he gets the nod for the Golden Stars.
5. Hussein Monzer
Club: Al Ahed
Another player who will look back on 2019 as a year to remember, Hussein Monzer was a key part of Al Ahed's AFC Cup-winning team as they became the first side from Lebanon to taste Continental glory.
In a team that will be best remembered for its resolute defensive displays in keeping nine clean sheets in 11 games, the energetic midfielder (below, centre) provided a lively presence in the middle of the park.
While he was left on the bench for the final against DPR Korea's 4.25 SC, Al Ahed coach Bassem Marmar turned to him as the clock ticked down to tighten up the midfield as the 22-year-old ended on the podium in Kuala Lumpur.
His performances did not go unnoticed, meanwhile, as Monzer made his international debut in September and is currently part of a Cedars team that is in a four-way battle with Korea Republic, DPR Korea and Turkmenistan in a tightly contested Asian Qualifiers Group H.
Recommended Stories :
Marmar dedicates Al Ahed title triumph to Lebanon
4.25 will return stronger, vows head coach O
Marmar’s half-time words inspired Al Ahed, says match-winner Yakubu