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Hanoi FC seal Inter-Zone Final berth

Ashgabat: Two goals from Nguyen Van Quyet helped Vietnam’s Hanoi FC advance to the 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Final with a 5-4 aggregate win over Altyn Asyr FC of Turkmenistan, following a 2-2 second-leg draw at Kopetdag Stadium on Tuesday.

Van Quyet extended Hanoi’s aggregate lead with an early poacher’s effort, then restored the two-goal buffer after Altyn Asyr captain Serdar Geldiyev netted the first of his two penalties just before half-time.

Geldiyev’s second successful spot-kick set up a grandstand finish with eight minutes remaining, but Hanoi survived the hosts’ desperate search for an equaliser to set up a meeting with either Abahani Limited Dhaka or 4.25 SC in the Inter-Zone Final.

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Back in the starting line-up following his match-winning cameo in the first leg, Van Quyet picked up where he left off, pouncing on Bagtyyar Gurgenov’s failure to clear a cross from the right-hand side to poke the ball home from eight yards and extend Hanoi’s aggregate lead to 4-2.

With their three-year unbeaten home record in the AFC Cup under threat, Altyn Asyr gathered steam as the half went on, with an effort from in-form Murat Yakshiyev, which drew a fine reflex stop from Nguyen Van Cong, one of their most promising opportunities.

Still, Hanoi could well have taken a three-goal aggregate lead to half-time had Pape Omar Faye converted when through on goal in the 44th minute, but Mammet Orazmuhammedov produced a crucial save to deny him.

Orazmuhammedov’s stop took on even greater importance just a minute later, when Nguyen Van Dung pulled Resul Hojayev down in the opposite penalty area, with Altyn Asyr captain Geldiyev making no mistake with the subsequent spot-kick to make it 1-1 on the day.

Now just one behind on aggregate, and having introduced Myrat Annayev at the inerval, Altyn Asyr looked to take their momentum into the second-half, but it was abruptly halted when Van Quyet restored Hanoi’s two-goal buffer just six minutes after the break.

After being found by Ngan Van Dai’s intelligent headed pass, Van Quyet carefully steered a header above the stranded Orazmuhammedov and into the vacant net, taking his tally to five goals in his last five AFC Cup matches and giving Altyn Asyr a new two-goal mountain to climb.

They looked to be on their last legs when Geldiyev blasted a volley over the crossbar with 10 minutes remaining, but Yazguly Hojageldiyev’s side found a lifeline when Mehail Titov was hauled down, with Geldiyev powering home a second successful penalty kick to reduce the arrears to a single goal in the 82nd minute.

Titov continued to make an impact, forcing Van Cong into a superb save just a minute later, but Hanoi calmly navigated the testing final moments to advance to the Inter-Zone Final and keep alive their dream of becoming the first Vietnamese club to win the AFC Cup.

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