Yangon: A 1-0 win over Singapore's Hougang United took unbeaten Yangon United into pole position in Group F, behind Ho Chi Minh City FC of Vietnam on goal difference at the midway point of the 2020 AFC Cup group stage.
In terms of scoreline, it looked a close affair at Thuwunna Stadium on Tuesday.
But although Than Paing's close-range finish with nine minutes to go was the tie's only goal, the reality is that this was a match that the hosts controlled for long spells and could － and should － have scored more.
See also :
Group F: Yangon United edge Hougang United
Group F: Ho Chi Minh City FC's Xuan Nam sinks Lao Toyota FC
Group H: Tampines Rovers FC down Shan United FC
Lions roar as Cheetahs stumble
Having scored five times in their last two AFC Cup ties, Hougang United headed to Yangon with an attack that wasn't short on goals and with genuine hopes of a second away win after their opening-day victory against Lao Toyota.
But right from the opening period, Yangon United were determined to boss the tie. The Lions dominated play for long stretches and could have gone into the break several goals to the good if not for profligate finishing and some fine goalkeeping from Hougang's Khairulhin Khalid.
Play was so one-sided at times that the visitors could barely get out of their own half. Over the 90 minutes, not one Hougang player's average position (above) is in Yangon territory, while just 10.5% of play was in the Yangon third － compared to 44% in Hougang's final third.
The Cheetahs were similarly dwarfed in the attacking stats. Five shots to Yangon's 24, five crosses to their opponents' 30 and zero corners to seven. Indeed, it took Hougang an hour of play before they were even able to register a first effort on goal － with, on average, eight Yangon players camped in their half, it's no surprise.
Attack lacks killer instinct
Despite Yangon's lion's share of possesion and strangehold on the tie, they repeatedly lacked composure in front of goal. That it took 81 minutes of play before they finally made the breakthrough suggests that coach Tin Maung Tun has plenty of work to do with his forwards.
On multiple occasions winger Maung Maung Lwin, who had another fine game with a tournament-high nine chances created, found space down the flanks, but his teammates failed to do him justice with Emmanuel Uzochukwu particularly guilty of prolificacy.
The substitute Than Paing showed his teammates what they'd been missing when he kept his cool to fire home 16 minutes after entering the field, although he too was guilty of passing up a fine opportunity to extend the advantage in stoppage time.
Plazibat endures another Myanmar trip to forget
It was a case of deja vu for Hougang striker Stipe Plazibat upon his return to Myanmar three years since his AFC Cup debut against Yadanarbon in Mandalay.
The Group H opener on 22 February 2017 also resulted in a 1-0 defeat for Plazibat's side, Home United, in a match the Croatian told the-AFC.com was his worst game in the entire 2017 season. The sequel proved just as frustrating for the 30-year-old.
Despite coming into the Matchday Three tie on a hot streak with four goals from his last two AFC Cup ties － a tally that saw him an early front-runner in the Top Scorer standings － Plazibat was unable to make his presence felt in Yangon.
Not only did he register zero shots on goal, but he was often out-fought by his opponents, winning just three of his 13 duels and aerial duels. With little service from his midfield, Plazibat dropped deeper in the second half in an attempt to find the ball (touch map above), but that then took him away from the area he could prove most dangerous on the brief spells Hougang threatened.
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