Hanoi: Goals from Pape Omar Faye and Nguyen Van Quyet helped Hanoi FC beat Ceres Negros FC 2-1 at the Hang Day Stadium on Tuesday to confirm their place in the 2019 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate win.
Both of Hanoi’s strikes came in a stirring second-half display as the hard-fought success saw the Vietnamese side progress to the next phase of the competition for the first time since 2014 when, under the AFC Cup’s previous format, they reached the quarter-finals.
By way of contrast to Hanoi’s delight, the result represents the second time in the last three editions of the AFC Cup that Ceres have failed to safely navigate this particular stage of the competition.
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On a night of high drama, and having been held to a 1-1 draw in last week’s first leg, Ceres entered the eagerly anticipated showdown needing to exert some early influence on proceedings.
But it was to be Hanoi who fashioned the game’s first genuine chance when midfielder Do Hung Dung flashed a shot from 15 yards narrowly wide of the target on 19 minutes.
With captain Jeffrey Christiaens withdrawn due to injury, Ceres struggled to gain a foothold, and Hanoi went close once again to opening as both Nguyen Quang Hai and Doan Van Hau had shots blocked by a resilient visiting defence, before Ngan Van Dai’s 29th minute effort from distance clipped the top of the bar with goalkeeper Roland Müller beaten.
As Hanoi continued to press, the final meaningful action of a tense yet absorbing first period saw Van Quyet, having been afforded too much time and space, somehow prod a close-range effort the wrong side of Müller’s right-hand upright.
Despite Ceres needing a goal to drag themselves back into contention, the pattern of play changed little at the start of the second half, with Quang Hai’s drilled strike expertly repelled by onrushing defender Álvaro Silva six minutes after the restart.
Moments later, substitute Pham Thanh Luong set up the seemingly omnipresent Quang Hai who blasted a shot over the bar when well placed on the edge of the Ceres penalty area.
The almost inevitable breakthrough for an impressive Hanoi came just before the hour mark, Omar Faye firing home Van Quyet’s cross from the right to register his second goal in a week and put his side well and truly in the driving seat.
One became two for Nghiem Chu Dinh's charges shortly after, this time Van Quyet lashing the ball past Müller following Omar Faye’s blocked attempt.
With AFC Cup leading goalscorer Bienvenido Marañón substituted off, Ceres then threw themselves a late lifeline, Curt Dizon scoring at the near post on 85 minutes to reduce the deficit and set up a rousing finale.
It was not to be for Ceres however, as, after custodian Nguyen Van Cong had denied Dizon with a fine save, Hanoi held firm to see out the rest of the match with relative ease and advance to the next phase.
With their spot in the ASEAN Zonal Final secured, Hanoi will await the other ASEAN Zonal Semi-final between Becamex Binh Duong and PSM Makassar on Wednesday to see which team they will face in the final.
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