Hanoi: Hanoi FC dominated large spells of their 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Final first leg against DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC, but conceded twice for the second successive home game as the 2-2 draw at Hang Day Stadium gives them an uphill task in Pyongyang.
The visitors, meanwhile, would have been satisfied to leave the Vietnamese capital without suffering defeat and can look ahead to the return meeting on home soil, where they have never been beaten in the AFC Cup.
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Inter-Zone Final - 1st Leg: Hanoi FC 2-2 4.25 SC
Having claimed their second successive V.League title last Thursday, Hanoi went into the first leg on a high and, after falling behind to Kim Chol-min’s goal, found themselves 2-1 up inside 30 minutes following goals from Nguyen Van Quyet and Papa Ibou Kebe.
Nguyen Quang Hai forced a fine save from goalkeeper An Tae-song on the stroke of half-time but it was after the interval when the hosts truly spurned the chance to take full control of the tie.
Top scorer Pape Omar Faye was the guiltiest culprit, firing over from close range early in the second half. The eight-goal Senegalese striker had six attempts on goal but just one on target and he has now not scored in three games on the Continent.
In total, Hanoi had 17 shots to 4.25’s nine but only hit the target six times, while they controlled 63 percent of the play. But dominance counts for little if chances are not taken, something the Vietnamese side could find out to their cost in Pyongyang.
Hanoi have produced some outstanding attacking play in the competition and went into Wednesday’s game with a tournament-leading 32 goals. But defensive frailties seem to have been exposed in the latter rounds and for the third successive game they conceded twice.
Key to the problems could be the lack of physical presence in their backline, with previous opponents Altyn Asyr and 4.25 boasting a considerable size advantage. While duels won across the 90 minutes had Hanoi marginally in front (49-47), the visitors dominated the aerial duels (26-13).
The Koreans’ two most advanced players, Rim and Kim, were both far superior in the air, with the former winning seven of his 10 aerial duels and the latter three out of four. Hanoi’s defence can expect more of the same in the return meeting and there is not much time to shore up their porous backline.
But bad luck also played a part as goalkeeper Nguyen Van Cong was forced off with an injury in the first half and his replacement, Bui Tien Dung, will feel he could have done better with Kim’s long-range strike which, while sweetly struck, was far from unstoppable.
Kim the real deal
Top scorer in 2017, Kim has established a reputation as one of the most prolific strikers on the Continent in recent years, but a closer look at his numbers had previously begged several questions.
On his debut season, eight of his nine goals came in heavy defeats of Mongolia’s FC Erchim and the following year a further four of his six strikes were in an 8-0 victory over Benfica Macau. Indeed, in six previous knockout round matches prior to this season, he had netted just once.
But Kim is now proving he can step up when it matters most, and it was his crucial brace at home to Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka in the previous round that sealed a place in the Inter-Zone Final.
While Kim is not noted for striking the ball from distance, his post-match assertion that he let fly from 25 yards because Hanoi’s reserve goalkeeper had been brought on showed a goalscorer’s instinct.
After three years in the competition, Kim appears to have found his shooting boots in the latter rounds, something that will be welcomed by his teammates and be a cause for concern for 4.25’s opponents.
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