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Inter-Zone Semi-Finals: Ones To Watch

Kuala Lumpur: The 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-finals are just days away as Hanoi FC prepare to take on Altyn Asyr on Tuesday and Abahani Limited Dhaka face 4.25 SC a day later. 

Ahead to the two match-ups, has selected four players who have the potential to light up the ties and help guide their sides into the Inter-Zone Final.

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Pape Omar Faye
Striker, Hanoi FC

Having already admitted his aim is to be the 2019 AFC Cup’s top scorer, Pape Omar Faye is a man on a mission ahead of the first leg against Altyn Asyr in the Vietnamese capital. 

The Senegalese frontman already boasts eight goals to his name and is just two behind the competition’s leading marksman Bienvenido Maranon of Ceres Negros, who have already been eliminated.

A hat-trick on Matchday Four away at Yangon United was a highlight, but Faye has scored more crucial goals, most notably away at Ceres Negros in the ASEAN Zonal semi-finals and at home to Becamex Binh Duong in the ASEAN Zonal Final. 

Powerful, fast and a threat in the air, the 32-year-old compliments a creative set of teammates around him and, with the likes of Nguyen Quang Hai able to pick him out, few would back against Faye picking up the accolade he so desires.

Altymyrat Annadurdyyev
Forward, Altyn Asyr

Altymyrat Annadurdyyev has been scoring goals in the AFC Cup since 2017, but it was last year when the forward truly made a name for himself as his goals helped fire the Turkmen side all the way to the final.

Indeed, it was at the Inter-Zone semi-final stage where he shone brightest, scoring home and away against India’s JSW Bengaluru to stun a side who had strong pedigree in the Continental competition.

Dangerous when cutting in from wide positions, the 26-year-old possesses an excellent left foot and is not afraid to take on defenders, abilities which have made him a standout performer for both club and country. 

While two goals in the group stage leave him some distance off last year’s eight-goal haul, Annadurdyyev’s strike in the 1-1 draw in Tajikistan against FC Istiklol ultimately secured qualification and he’s proved before he can do it in the Inter-Zone semi-finals.

Nabib Newaz Ziban
Forward, Abahani Limited Dhaka

Twelve goals in six games show Abahani Limited Dhaka are adept at finding the back of the net and they have plenty of players who can do just that, with the goals shared out as they became the first side from Bangladesh to reach the knockout rounds. 

Among them is Nabib Newaz Ziban, the Bangladesh international who was on the scoresheet twice in the group stage, with a cheeky ‘Cruyff’ finish against Minerva Punjab and an excellently taken goal against Manang Marshyangdi Club proof of his ability.

But it was in the second game against Minerva, away in India, when Ziban’s biggest contribution came as, with 93 minutes on the clock and Abahani heading out, his deep inswinging corner ultimately led to the goal that saw his side through at the last.

Abahani face arguably their toughest test yet against 4.25 and they will look to Ziban for further inspiration as the club from the Bangladesh capital aim to create another piece of history for their nation.

Kim Yu-song
Striker, 4.25 SC

Kim Yu-song burst on to the AFC Cup scene in 2017 when he scored five goals on his competition debut against Mongolia’s Erchim FC, before finishing as top scorer with nine goals to his name after exiting at the Inter-Zone semi-final stage.

The striker, who has a poacher’s instinct in and around the penalty area, added a further six to his tally last year as the Pyongyang club reached the Inter-Zone Final, where he scored against Altyn Asyr but his side ultimately exited on away goals.

Goals in the first four games of the current campaign show Kim means business once more and the DPR Korea international heads into the clash with Abahani with an impressive tally of six.

Indeed, 21 goals over three years is more than the number of games Kim has played, a statistic that will surely strike fear into opposition defences, including an Abahani one that has kept three clean sheets in six games.

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