Ashgabat: Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr will look to overhaul a one-goal deficit against Vietnam's Hanoi FC when the sides meet for the second leg of their 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-final on Tuesday.
A thrilling first leg toed and froed before the ASEAN Zonal champions finally secured a 3-2 victory over their Central Asian Zone counterparts following a late Nguyen Van Quyet penalty.
But with two away goals in the bag and home advantage at Kopetdag Stadium, Altyn Asyr will be confident they have what it takes to progress to a second successive Inter-Zone Final.
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After advancing to the knockout rounds as Central Asian Zonal champions, Altyn Asyr got off to the perfect start in the Vietnamese capital when Murat Yakshiyev struck against the early run of play to give the Turkmen side the lead inside five minutes.
Hanoi dominated large chunks of the game and went 2-1 up just after the hour through the second of Nguyen Quang Hai’s double but Altymyrat Annadurdyyev equalised with what could prove a vital away goal.
The Ashgabat club had goalkeeper Mammet Orazmuhammedov to thank for a number of good saves while Mekan Saparov made a superb last-ditch clearance off the line as they began to close in on a 2-2 draw.
However, with just three minutes left on the clock, Orazmuhammedov upended Do Hung Dung in the box and Van Quyet dispatched the ensuing spot-kick to bring a close to a thrilling contest.
Altyn Asyr will likely spend more time on the front foot in the Turkmen capital and in Annadurdyyev they have a forward who has scored crucial goals at this stage of the competition before.
Yakshiyev, who broke his leg in the Inter-Zone semi-finals last year, is back among the goals and eager to make up for missed opportunities, while captain Serdar Geldiyev will be a calming presence in the centre of the park on what could be a frantic evening.
Despite conceding the two away goals, there remains a strong argument that the first leg was Hanoi’s best performance of the campaign and skipper Van Quyet claimed they had taken their game to a new level.
But in a match that saw their creator-in-chief Quang Hai net a wonderful free-kick and a fine solo effort, there were regrets among the camp that they had failed to win by a bigger margin after posting an incredible 33 shots on goal.
The return meeting with Altyn Asyr will be the first time in the 2019 knockout rounds that they have played the second leg away from home, but Hanoi did manage a draw at Ceres Negros and a 1-0 win at Becamex Binh Duong in the ASEAN Zonal semi-finals and final respectively.
Either outcome would be enough to see them advance past the Turkmen side but should the hosts breach their backline then life could become much more difficult in what promises to be an intriguing and potentially nervy affair.
In Quang Hai, Hanoi boast the star performer of the first leg and a player capable of producing a moment of magic, while Van Quyet – who started the match on the bench due to injury – will likely return and has scored in three of the five knockout round matches so far.
A huge night awaits for the young centre-back pairing of Nguyen Thanh Chung and Do Duy Manh, who will be tasked with nullifying the threat of a more physically imposing frontline than they are used to dealing with.
Ones To Watch
Altyn Asyr (TKM) vs Hanoi FC (VIE)
Venue: Kopetdag Stadium, Ashgabat
Kick-off: August 27, 17:00 UTC+5
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