Thursday, September 21, 2017

It’s an AFC knockout

Ayeyawady United will face Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia in the Round of 16 on May 27 after a 3-3 draw in a difficult away tie to Persib Bandung of Indonesia on May 13 was not enough to secure them home advantage.

While the quarter-finals of the competition are played over two legs, the preceding round is contested over 90 minutes with winners of the competition’s eight groups securing a start at home to the knockout campaign.

“Finishing first was very important because we will get to play at home and have our fans behind us, and it is also how I want it to be,” said Johor coach Mario Gomez, a newcomer to the club whose name was fixed to the coaches’ door only two weeks ago.

His side scored three goals in the final 15 minutes of their Group F game with Balestier Khalsa of Singapore to secure top spot over Kitchee of Hong Kong, who will now travel to Persib.

In the last four years of competition only three Round of 16 games in the East Asian Zone have gone the way of the visitors.

But Ayeyawady coach Marjan Sekulovski will take heart from the way his team have travelled this year having won one and drawn two on the road.

Starting as underdogs his team will hopefully be able to play without fear the way they did in their final group game, and this time the game cannot end in a draw.

“We got this result because they wanted to show their best form. We’re a crazy team because we never give up. It’s our strength,” said Sekulovski after the Persib game.

“Persib is a better team and they played better in the match. But they [Ayeyawady] didn’t give up until the end and came from behind three times. We gave a good performance today.”

The Indonesian side led from a 28th minute Supardi Nasir goal until Ayeyawady punctured the home defence by curling the ball into the net from distance with only one minute left in the first half.

Out of the tunnel for the second half, the teams immediately traded blows with success for Persib coming in the 52nd minute when Firman Utina pierced the heart of the Delta Boys’ defence and played in Muhammad Ridwan to round Ayeyawady keeper Vanlal Hruaia and score.

When Ayeyawady’s Colombian striker Edison Fonseca was upended in the penalty box by Vladimir Vujovic, Naumov stepped up to finish his eighth goal of the group stages, extending the Macedonian’s lead as the competition’s most prolific scorer.

The scores remained level until two minutes before time when another moment of madness that Ayeyawady often allow to occur happened. A rash tackle gave away a penalty that Makan Konate slotted past the keeper for what seemed likely to be the winner.

But again Ayeyawady’s fighting spirit saw them pull the scores through a stoppage-time equaliser from Nay Lin Aung. The goal may not have brought them a home tie in a fortnight but it did protect their season’s unbeaten record.

Before the match, Ayeyawady captain Min Min Thu spoke of his team’s “short preparation time” for this match.

“Some of our players have just come back to the team two days ago. We had only a short preparation time before heading here,” said the skipper.

While the senior international players returned, the U23 and U20 squad remained absent. While the U20s have left for a training camp in Australia in preparation for the country’s debut in the FIFA U20 World Cup, the U23 squad preparing for June’s Southeast Asian Games

remain in-country.

Ayeyawady will be hoping that those U23 players will be allowed to join the squad for their game held in Malaysia’s border town with Singapore on May 27. The U23s will begin their Singapore SEA Games campaign on June 2 against Indonesia.

10 19 20
10 10 22
10 6 21
Ayeyawady United
10 5 15
Rakhine United
10 0 14
Magwe FC
10 -2 13
Zwekapin United
10 -4 13
Nay Pyi Taw FC
10 -8 9
10 -6 8
10 -6 7
Chin United
10 -7 7
10 -7 6
Last Updated - 1 April 2017
Manaw Myay
22 51 52
22 21 49
Nay Pyi Taw FC
22 33 48
Mahar United
22 31 48
Myawady FC
22 23 36
Mawyawadi FC
22 1 35
City Stars
22 1 28
University FC
22 -17 23
Dagon FC
22 -11 20
Pong Gan
22 -37 12
United of Thanlyin
22 -47 11
Silver Stars
22 -49 10
Last Updated - 28 August 2016