Hanoi: Goalkeeper Nguyen Van Cong has admitted that Hanoi FC are now dreaming of winning the 2019 AFC Cup after Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Becamex Binh Duong saw them crowned ASEAN Zonal Champions and book an Inter-Zone semi-final date against Turkmenistan's Altyn Asyr.
The capital city side went into the all-Vietnamese clash at Hang Day Stadium with a 1-0 advantage following last week’s first leg and, after a tight first half which Hanoi shaded, the hosts broke the deadlock just after the hour when top scorer Pape Omar Faye notched his eighth goal of the campaign.
With Binh Duong needing to score twice, Hanoi could breath a little easier and they could have added to their tally, with Nguyen Quang Hai, Ngan Van Dai and Pape Kebe all missing chances as the home side comfortably saw out the closing stages.
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“It was a great result and the one we were aiming for before the game,” said Van Cong, whose side will welcome 2018 runners-up Altyn Asyr to Hanoi for the first leg on August 20.
“Before the tournament we didn’t think about becoming champions of ASEAN but now we’re so happy. We will do everything we can to go as far as possible in the tournament and make our fans happy.
“Every person has a dream and we are dreaming of becoming champions. We will keep fighting.”
Having scored a tournament-leading 26 goals before the first leg of the ASEAN Zonal Final, much of the pre-match talk had been about Hanoi’s potent frontline.
However, the defence deserves plenty of accolades, too, after remaining resolute in wet conditions in Thu Dau Mot City and then again keeping Binh Duong at bay in the return meeting as Van Cong and his backline recorded successive shutouts.
“Our success was not just because of a strong defence in the two games, but down to the whole team’s effort,” insisted the goalkeeper.
“At half-time, the coach told us to keep going in the second half and the good result will follow. We played well in the first half so we didn’t have to change anything – just keep our spirits high.
“Both teams are strong but the most important thing was we were able to control the two games and the proof is in the result.”
While Hanoi ran out deserved winners over the two legs, there were a few nervy moments early in the second half, with Nguyen Thanh Chung forced to acrobatically clear off the line from Brazilian Pedro in a moment that could have changed the contest.
But they weathered the storm before Faye’s close-range finish calmed any nerves as Hanoi saw out the game to ensure their fine run on the Continent continues.
“My clearance happened quickly and I was lucky to get back in time to save the team,” added Thanh Chung.
“Our defence was fully focused today and everyone communicated well. Before the game we also spoke about not conceding to help us get the result we needed.
“I’m very happy because we have achieved the target set before the tournament, but we still have a lot to do to get a good result in the next round.”
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