Final - Preview: 4.25 SC v Al Ahed
Kuala Lumpur: A new AFC Cup champion will be crowned when DPR Korea's 4.25 SC face off against Al Ahed of Lebanon in the final of the 2019 edition at Kuala Lumpur Stadium on Monday.
4.25 SC will look to build on their previous two AFC Cup campaigns that have seen them go one stage further each time after reaching the Inter-Zone semi-finals in 2017 and the Inter-Zone final in 2018.
However, they will come up against the unbeaten Al Ahed who are determined to make it third time lucky for Lebanese teams in the AFC Cup final after Nejmeh (2005) and Safa SC (2008) fell at the final hurdle.
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AFC Cup knockout stage eliminations at the hands of India's Bengaluru FC in 2017 and Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan in 2018 were disappointing results for 4.25 SC after impressive group stage performances, but the DPR Korea side returned at the 2019 edition even stronger.
After another dominant Group I campaign that saw them become East Asia Zonal champions for a third consecutive time, Abahani Limited Dhaka of Bangladesh and Vietnam's Hanoi FC were eliminated to book a date with the best of the West, Al Ahed.
Boasting an array of talent from the DPR Korea national team, 4.25 SC's main threat in front of goal is striker Kim Yu-song, who has scored nine times in the competition and will have one eye on the tournament's top scorer accolade, having previously claimed the award in 2017.
Forward Rim Chol-min has contributed important goals to complement Kim Yu-song, including scoring in the Inter-Zone ties against Abahani and Hanoi, while tricky winger Son Phyong-il and attacking full-back Won Song offer penetration and width down the left side.
Al Ahed's previous best performance in reaching the 2016 semi-finals has been overtaken by a stunning 2019 campaign which has seen them reach the final unbeaten on a run of 10 games without defeat (six wins, four draws).
Bolstered by a miserly backline, the Lebanese side have only conceded three goals in the 2019 AFC Cup, an average of 0.3 goals per game – the best average in the competition this year. Indeed, in the knockout stage ties against Jordan's Al Wehdat and Al Jazeera, Al Ahed kept four cleansheets.
A large part of Al Ahed's resilience has been due to goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil, who has the best save percentage of any keeper in the 2019 competition (88%) – saving 22 of the 25 shots on target he has faced.
At the other end of the field, Mohamad Kdouh was the main man in attack for the yellow-clad men, weighing with 60% of Al Ahed’s goals in the 2019 Continental campaign, but the striker has since joined Bangladesh side Bashundhara Kings.
While none of Kdouh's former teammates have scored more than once in this year's campaign, playmaker Mohamad Haidar has caught the eye with 13 chances created in just seven games.
Ones To Watch
4.25 SC (PRK) v Al Ahed (LIB)
Venue: Kuala Lumpur Stadium, Kuala Lumpur
Kick-off: November 4, 21:00 UTC+8
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