Kuala Lumpur: With the 2019 AFC Cup final between Lebanon’s Al Ahed and DPER Korea’s 4.25 SC to take place at Kuala Lumpur Stadium on Monday, the-AFC.com has selected a variety of facts and figures to whet the appetite.
The final will be the 16th to take place since the tournament was launched in 2004, with Al Ahed aiming to become the 14th winner from West Asia and 4.25 SC hoping to become East Asia’s first-ever AFC Cup champions.
See also :
Road to the 2019 AFC Cup Final
AFC Cup Final: The Rise of 4.25 SC
The AFC Cup Final: 2016-2018
The match-up between the pair is the first time a Lebanese side has ever faced a team from DPR Korea in the AFC Cup.
While Lebanese clubs have been playing in the competition since its first edition in 2004, DPR Korea has only been represented since 2017 and, indeed, the final will be the first time a club side from the country has squared off against West Asian opposition.
But familiar foes
While club sides from the countries may not be familiar with one another, their national teams most certainly are after meeting regularly in recent years, meaning at least some of the players will be familiar with one another.
In qualification for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, Lebanon took four points from two games against the Koreans before also beating them in the group stage of the competition.
DPR Korea got revenge earlier this year, meanwhile, defeating the Lebanese 2-0 in their opening FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifying match. They will face off again in November this year.
Since 4.25 SC made their debut appearance in 2017, they have lost just three times in 26 games and were undefeated in the 2018 campaign but exited on away goals to Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr in the Inter-Zone final.
They have still yet to be beaten on Pyongyang and each season have gone one better than the previous year, advancing to the Inter-Zone semi-final in 2017, the Inter-Zone final last year and the competition’s main event this time round.
Third time lucky?
Al Ahed are attempting to become the first Lebanese side to win the AFC Cup after both Nejmeh and Safa previously finished as runners-up in 2005 and 2008 respectively.
The Beirut side reached the Inter-Zone semi-finals last year before being eliminated by eventual winners Air Force Club of Iraq, while their best performance remains reaching the semi-finals in 2016 before losing out to the same opponents.
Kim Yu-song is aiming to win the top scorer award for the second time in three years after he claimed the accolade on his debut campaign in 2017 following his nine goals.
The 4.25 SC striker’s current tally is also nine as he chases down 10-goal Ceres Negros star Bienvenido Maranon. Teammate An Il-bom also scooped the award in 2018.
In 15 previous AFC Cups, sides from West Asia have lifted the trophy 13 times, with only Uzbekistan’s Nasaf (2011) and Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim (2015) breaking the trend.
Since JDT’s triumph, Air Force Club won the competition an unprecedented three times in a row but, without their presence this time round, 4.25 SC are targeting a first triumph for East Asia.
Al Ahed boast the best defensive record in the 2019 competition, with the Lebanese side conceding just three times in 10 games and keeping eight clean sheets along the way.
Only Oman’s Al Suwaiq (twice) and Bahrain’s Malkiya Club (once) have breached their defence, while they have not conceded at all in four knockout round matches.
Indeed, Al Ahed are the only team in this year’s competition who have yet to taste defeat, having won six and drawn four of the 10 games so far.
Only once have the Lebanese side been trailing, meanwhile, when Malkiya opened the scoring in Beirut on Matchday Six before Al Ahed recovered to win 2-1 and progress on top of Group C.
A record victory
In 2018, 4.25 SC recorded the biggest-ever win in the knockout rounds when they defeated Singapore’s Home United 9-1 in the second leg of the Inter-Zone semi-finals to advance 11-1 on aggregate.
Nasaf beat India’s Dempo 9-0 in 2011 while Ceres Negros overcame Cambodia’s Boueng Ket by the same scoreline, also in 2018, but both were in the group stage.
Hanoi’s 10-0 win against another Cambodian side, Naga World, this year is now the biggest victory the tournament has witnessed but was also in the group stage.
Long distances, short distances
Never before have sides from so far apart met in the AFC Cup final, with 7,736 kilometres separating the DPR Korea capital Pyongyang from its Lebanese counterpart Beirut. The showpiece event will be the first to take place at the Asian Football Confederation’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
On three previous occasions teams from the same city have faced off in the final, with Al Jaish defeating Damascus rivals Al Wahda in 2004, Shabab Al Ordon overcoming fellow Amman club Al Faisaly in 2006 and Kuwait SC getting the better of Qadsia SC in the Kuwait City clash of 2013.
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