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Inter-Zone SF 1st Leg: Hanoi FC 3-2 Altyn Asyr FC

Hanoi: A late Nguyen Van Quyet penalty gave Vietnam’s Hanoi FC a narrow advantage after they beat Altyn Asyr FC of Turkmenistan 3-2 in a gripping AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-final first leg at Hang Day Stadium on Tuesday.

Two superb goals from Nguyen Quang Hai looked to have gone to waste when Altymyrat Annadurdyyev’s equaliser brought the visitors level in the second half, but substitute Van Quyet netted the winning spot-kick in the 88th minute to give the Vietnamese champions a slight edge in the two-legged tie.

The result leaves the tie finely balanced ahead of next Tuesday’s return leg in Ashgabat, with the winners to advance to next month’s Inter-Zone Play-off Final.

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Unbeaten in almost four months, Hanoi found themselves behind within just four minutes after a Pham Duc Huy giveaway was swiftly punished by the visitors in a dramatic start to the two-legged tie.

Myrat Annayev robbed the midfielder of the ball before slipping a pass behind the defence for Yakshiyev, who easily beat the offside trap before dispatching the ball into the bottom corner for his third AFC Cup goal of the season despite a touch from goalkeeper Nguyen Van Cong.

With an away goal secured in the blink of an eye, Altyn Asyr appeared content to put numbers behind the ball and soak up pressure, allowing Hanoi a relative monopoly on possession and territory.

A fine cross from the left by Quang Hai unlocked the Altyn Asyr defence and very nearly brought about Hanoi’s equaliser in the 23rd minute, but Pape Omar Faye’s header hit the crossbar before Papa Ibou Kebe’s follow-up volley clattered into the same piece of woodwork.

Despite the game being played largely on their terms, Hanoi’s goal threat was often limited to hopeful efforts from distance in the first half, but distance proved no barrier to Quang Hai, who produced a moment of magic to level the tie in the 41st minute.

After a foul by Mekan Saparov, the Vietnam international expertly curled the ball around the five-man wall to pick out the top corner from 25 yards, leaving Altyn Asyr goalkeeper Mammet Orazmuhammedov rooted to the spot, and the tie evenly poised at 1-1 at the interval.

Hanoi remained in the ascendancy after the break without genuinely threatening the Altyn Asyr goal, until more magic from Quang Hai put them ahead in the 61st minute, with his second strike every bit as impressive as his first.

After receiving the ball on the right flank, the 22-year-old dribbed into the penalty area before finding the far side of the net with another superb effort Orazmuhammedov could do little to keep out.

But while their star man was operating in rarefied air at one end, Hanoi’s defensive weakness came back to haunt them just three minutes later at the other, with Yakshiyev turning provider for Annadurdyyev, who was left totally unmarked before emphatically picking out the bottom corner to level the tie at 2-2.

The hosts continued to surge forward, but Orazmuhammedov made a crucial save to deny Van Quyet, before Saparov conjured a miraculous goal-line clearance as Altyn Asyr scrambled to hold on.

But they come unstuck with just two minutes remaining, with Van Quyet slamming home a penalty kick after Orazmuhammedov was adjudged to have fouled Do Hung Dung, ending an epic encounter which sets up a mouth-watering finale next Tuesday.

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