Hanoi: Vietnam’s Hanoi FC will welcome DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC to Hang Day Stadium for the first leg of the 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Final on Wednesday.
The ASEAN Zonal champions edged past Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr in the previous round, while their East Asia Zonal counterparts overcame Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka to set up a mouthwatering encounter as they chase a place in the final on November 2.
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The recently crowned V.League champions have been Vietnam’s most successful club in recent years, having won three of the past four domestic championships in Vietnam.
Chu Dinh Nghiem’s team are on an incredible run and have not lost in any competition since late May as they target a historic three titles this season.
Their 2019 AFC Cup campaign began in Group F with a record-breaking 10-0 victory over Cambodia’s Naga World back in late February, although they required a 2-0 win against Singapore’s Tampines Rovers in their final group game to top the standings and advance.
Captain Nguyen Van Quyet scored the decisive goal in the 3-2 two-legged victory over the Philippines’ Ceres Negros in the ASEAN Zonal semi-finals, before Hanoi were crowned regional kings after seeing off domestic rivals Becamex Binh Duong 2-0 on aggregate in the ASEAN Zonal Final.
Having surpassed their previous best showing of quarter-finalists – in 2014 – Hanoi next took on Altyn Asyr in the Inter-Zone semi-finals, with a Nguyen Quang Hai brace and a late Van Quyet penalty securing a dramatic 3-2 first-leg victory on home soil.
Van Quyet was at the double in Ashgabat as Hanoi’s run continued following a 2-2 draw that saw them edge the Turkmen side 5-4 on aggregate.
Their skipper has five knockout round goals to his name and will again have a key role to play against 4.25 at Hang Day Stadium, while top scorer Pape Omar Faye will look to add to his eight goals, having not scored in his past two games on the Continent.
Quang Hai is the creative spark in the side and holds the key to unlocking many a defence, while young defender Nguyen Thanh Chung, whose goal against Song Lam Nghe An secured the V.League title, will look to keep 4.25’s threatening strike force at bay.
Back in the AFC Cup for the third successive campaign 4.25 are again aiming for a place in the final, having missed out by the narrowest margins last year.
Their competition debut in 2017 saw them advance to the Inter-Zone semi-finals before losing out to India’s JSW Bengaluru following a disappointing 3-0 first-leg away defeat.
In 2018, the Pyongyang side returned even stronger and, after being crowned East Asia Zonal champions for the second successive year, overcame Singapore’s Home United 11-1 on aggregate – including a stunning 9-1 home victory – to progress to the Inter-Zone Final.
But their run would come to an end in Turkmenistan when, following a 2-2 first-leg draw against Altyn Asyr, the subsequent 1-1 scoreline in Ashgabat saw the Turkmen team advance to the final.
Back with renewed optimism this year, 4.25 had few problems navigating the East Asia Zone once more, as five successive victories ensured they topped Group I to return to the knockout rounds.
An entertaining 4-3 loss in the first leg of the Inter-Zone semi-final against Abahani in Bangladesh did leave them with plenty to do in Pyongyang, but Kim Yu-song netted a second-half double to seal a 5-4 aggregate win.
The prolific Kim now has 23 AFC Cup goals to his name in the past three years and will likely be 4.25's biggest goal threat in Hanoi, while skipper An Il-bom was inspirational in 2018 and will look to regain the form that saw him claim last year's top scorer award with 12 goals.
Elsewhere, Rim Chol-min is another who has impressed in the current campaign. The forward has weighed in with goals and is hard to defend against in the air.
Ones To Watch
Hanoi FC (VIE) vs 4.25 SC (PRK) Venue: Hang Day Stadium, Hanoi Kick-off: September 25, 19:00 UTC+7
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