AFC Cup Final: Ones To Watch
Kuala Lumpur: The 2019 AFC Cup Final brings East and West Asia together as DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC and Lebanon’s Al Ahed battle it out for the right to be crowned kings of Asia.
Al Ahed go into the game with the tournament’s best defensive record, while 4.25 are the second-highest scorers, meaning there will be plenty of talent on display at both ends of the pitch. Ahead of the match-up, the-AFC.com has picked out six players to look out for.
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Kim Yu-song – Striker, 4.25 SC
DPR Korea international Kim Yu-song has been scoring goals for fun over the past three editions of the AFC Cup, with the striker boasting 24 goals to his name since debuting in 2017.
A five-goal haul against Mongolia’s Erchim FC in his first-ever AFC Cup game in 2017 announced his arrival in emphatic style, before Kim claimed the top scorer award with nine goals.
A further six was a decent return last year, but Kim has been back to his prolific best this time round, with his brace against Abahani Limited Dhaka and long-range effort against Hanoi FC proving, perhaps for the first time, he has what it takes to score in the biggest games.
Those three knockout round goals have ensured he goes into the final firmly in contention for the top scorer accolade as he sits just one behind current leader, Bienvenido Maranon of Ceres Negros.
Mohamad Haidar – Foward, Al Ahed
Twenty-nine-year-old forward Mohamad Haidar is the main creator-in-chief in the Al Ahed line-up and he has created more chances (13) than any other player in his side.
Having played just seven of Al Ahed’s 10 games, the Lebanese international creates an average of just under two chances per game, although he will look to improve on a return of just one assist.
That assist, however, came at the perfect time because, with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first leg of the West Asia Zonal semi-final away at Al Wehdat, he floated an inch-perfect delivery for Mohamad Kdouh to head home what would be the only goal over the two legs.
Haidar boasts a host of domestic honours, having won the Lebanese Premier League (with Safa and Al Ahed) six times and the FA Cup on three occasions. He would like nothing more than to add the AFC Cup to his bulging trophy cabinet.
Rim Chol-min – Striker, 4.25 SC
While Kim Yu-song gains the majority of headlines, his strike partner and captain Rim Chol-min has also popped up with his fair share of important goals during the 2019 campaign.
A more imposing presence than Kim, the 25-year-old possesses a thunderous left foot, as displayed when he fired home a crucial goal away at Abahani in the Inter-Zone semi-final.
Another away goal, this time when he was on-hand to pounce on a loose ball and prod home from a few yards out to open the scoring against Hanoi in the Inter-Zone final was arguably even more important as 4.25 ultimately advanced on away goals.
Not afraid to try his luck, Rim has had more shots on goal than any player on either side and his physicality is sure to ask questions of an Al Ahed defence that has conceded just three times in the competition.
Mehdi Khalil – Goalkeeper, Al Ahed
With eight clean sheets in 10 games and just three goals conceded, Mehdi Khalil has been instrumental in Al Ahed’s progression to a first-ever AFC Cup final.
The last line of defence for the tournament’s strongest defensive unit, Lebanon’s number one goalkeeper has also not conceded in the knockout rounds.
Narrow wins against Jordanian sides Al Wehdat and Al Jazeera in the West Asia Zonal semi-finals and final would have unlikely been achieved without their charismatic custodian, who made telling contributions in both games.
Known as ‘The Mountain’ due to his imposing presence, Khalil is an excellent shot stopper as well as being quick off his line to avert danger. He will need to be at his best again to keep out a free-scoring 4.25 side.
Son Il-phyong – Midfielder, 4.25 SC
Many of 4.25’s fine attacking play and goals come down the flanks, with the Pyongyang club particularly dangerous from the left side.
Midfielder Son Il-phyong works in tandem with full-back Won Song down that side to cause havoc among opposition defences and provide Kim and Rim with the ammunition they require.
Slight in stature, Son boasts the speed and ability to take on defenders and is excellent at sending pinpoint deliveries into the box.
While two assists and a goal against Hong Kong’s Wofoo Tai Po in the group stage resulted in his best game stats-wise, Son also posed a considerable threat to Hanoi in the Inter-Zone final and it was his good work that led to 4.25’s opening goal in Vietnam.
Haytham Faour – Midfielder, Al Ahed
Haytham Faour is another vital cog in the Al Ahed line-up with the defensive midfielder acting as a shield for the backline behind him and his positional discipline allowing the more creative players around him to advance forward.
A calming presence in the centre of the park, the Al Ahed skipper keeps things simple but sees plenty of the ball and with 369 successful passes made is among the competition's top 10 in that category.
The 29-year-old is a one-club man having been at Al Ahed for more than a decade, winning six Lebanese Premier League titles and a number of cup competitions, while he was also part of Lebanon's AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 squad.
Now retired from international football, Faour's chances of Continental glory come in the AFC Cup but, with 4.25's attacking prowess, his performance in midfield will be crucial to Al Ahed's chances.
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