Inter-Zone Semi-Final 2nd Leg - Preview: 4.25 SC vs Abahani Limited Dhaka
Pyongyang: DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC go into the second leg of their 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-final against Bangladesh's Abahani Limited Dhaka on Wednesday a goal down as they aim to repeat last year's efforts and reach the Inter-Zone Final.
A seven goal thriller wowed the crowds at Bangabandhu National Stadium as Abahani Limited Dhaka edged an action-packed 4-3 scoreline in last week's first leg for a slim advantage going into the return meeting in the DPR Korea capital.
The winners of the tie at Kim Il Sung Stadium will face either Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr or Hanoi FC of Vietnam in the Inter-Zone final next month.
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Winners of the East Asia Zone for the second consecutive year since making their AFC Cup debut in 2017, 4.25 SC currently have a 50 percent winning record at the Inter-Zone Semi-Final stage.
In 2017, they were eliminated by India's Bengaluru following a comprehensive 3-0 first-leg defeat in Bangalore, but went one better last year and comfortably defeated Home United of Singapore to reach the 2018 Inter-Zone Final.
After easing through this year's Group I, 4.25 SC were drawn to face South Asian Zone champions Abahani and the clash between the two did anything but disappoint.
After a muted opening half hour, the game exploded into life when Sohel Rana scored a screaming effort from range, before Choe Jong-hyok equalised with an equally impressive strike.
Nabib Newaz Ziban and Rim Chol-min exchanged goals either side of half-time, before Sunday Chizoba netted a brace to keep the goals coming. Pak Song-rok added the game's seventh of the night to see the scoreline finish 4-3 in favour of the hosts.
4.25 SC have plenty of firepower in their side as they boast both of the last two AFC Cup Top Scorers in their ranks in 2017 Golden Boot Kim Yu-song and 2018's best marksman An Il-bom. Both began from the bench in Dhaka, but the pair joined the action following the interval and helped reduce the deficit.
Choe Jong-hyok was the man who shone among those who were in the starting line-up for the visitors. Not only did he score a stunning equaliser in the first half, but the 25-year-old midfielder was also the most creative on the pitch with the four chances he laid on for teammates the highest in the game.
Abahani Limited Dhaka
Just by reaching the knockout stages, Abahani Limited Dhaka have already cemented their name in Bangladesh football history books after they became the first side from their nation to reach this phase of the AFC Cup.
While they now face a difficult task in Pyongyang, where 4.25 SC have never lost in the continental competition, their lead does give them something to defend as well as a foundation to build upon.
Both Bengaluru (2017) and Altyn Asyr (2018) successfully drew in the DPR Korean capital in the knockout stage, a result that would be enough for the Sky Blues.
Having fired in four goals in the first leg, but conceded three, it is no surprise that the forward line is Abahani's position of strength. In the meeting in Dhaka, Sunday Chizoba and Sohel Rana were among those on the scoresheet, while Haitian Kervens Belfort is a physical presence up front.
One to look out for in Pyongyang could be Bangladesh international Ziban who was also amongst the goalscorers at Bangabandhu National Stadium. The 29-year-old is both a provider and a scorer having already created 17 chances for teammates in the campaign so far and having netted three times. .
Ones To Watch:
4.25 SC vs Abahani Limited Dhaka
Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang
Kick-off: August 28, 18:00 UTC+9
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