Dhaka: Bangladesh's Abahani Limited Dhaka will take a slim advantage into the return leg after defeating 4.25 SC of DPR Korea 4-3 in their 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-final 1st Leg on Wednesday.
Showing the attacking quality that produced 12 goals in the group stage, the hosts did enough to win on the night at the Bangabandhu National Stadium but 4.25’s three away goals keep them well in contention going into next Wednesday’s second leg in Pyongyang
Sohel Rana and Choe Jong-hyok traded early wondergoals, but a quickfire brace from Abahani forward Sunday Chizoba Nwadialu looked to have the hosts on the road to a comfortable victory before 4.25 pulled back a late goal to stay within striking distance.
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In the first ever meeting between the clubs, the early minutes gave an impression of the archetypal first-leg arm wrestle but it proved to be anything but, as the match exploded into life with three goals in less than five minutes shortly after the half-hour mark.
The scoring spree, and Abahani, got up and running in the 33rd minute with Sohel Rana producing a glorious 30-yard strike after getting on the end of Mohammad Nabib Ziban’s intelligent backheel.
But 4.25 replied, in every sense of the word, just two minutes later with a goal that was almost a carbon copy of Rana’s, with Choe Jong-hyok hammering the ball in from just outside the box after midfield partner O Hyok-chol became the latest exponent of the backheel assist.
The goal rush continued when 4.25 failed to clear their lines following a set-piece in the 37th minute, with Ziban barely able to believe his luck when the ball deflected off an opposition foot and into his path to set up a one-on-one opportunity against An, which the Abahani midfielder duly converted to restore the home side’s lead.
It was a lead they took with them to half-time, but 4.25’s intentions were clear as they created a number of openings immediately after the break, culminating in another emphatic equaliser, this time from captain Rim Chol-min.
Having narrowly missed with a header two minutes earlier, Rim was released by a lovely pass from the outside of substitute An Il Bom’s foot before rocketing the ball past Shahidul Alam from just inside the penalty area to make it 2-2 in the 54th minute.
As in the first half, the goals came in bunches, as 4.25 were caught napping by a long ball three minutes later to allow Chizoba to poke the ball above the onrushing goalkeeper An to give Mario Lemos’ the lead for the third time.
But Sunday’s best was yet to come, with the Nigerian forward adding another just four minutes later, feigning to shoot twice before drilling the ball low into the 4.25 net to give the Bangladeshi champions breathing space at 4-2.
Rim headed wide when he perhaps should have tested Sahidul, before Kim Yu-song – scorer of six goals in the group stage – was introduced as 4.25 looked to give themselves some sort of platform to take back to Pyongyang.
They duly found it through Pak Song-rok in the 77th minute, who headed the ball into the net with little resistance after Sahidul made an ill-advised attempt to claim Choe’s long-range cross.
4.25 spent the latter stages hunting a late equaliser, and An Il-bom hit the crossbar in the dying stages, but Abahani managed to hold on to take a narrow lead into the next week’s finale.
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