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Ten-man Abahani end historic AFC Cup journey

  • Published at 05:24 pm August 28th, 2019
Action from the second leg of the AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-final between Abahani and April 25 in Pyongyang (file photo)AFC

4.25 won the tie 5-4 on aggregate to reach the final for the second successive time after Abahani, the South Zone champion in the group stage, won the first leg 4-3 at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka last Wednesday

Abahani Limited’s unprecedented journey in the AFC Cup 2019, the Asian version of the Uefa Europa League, came to an abrupt end when the 10-man Sky Blues conceded a 2-0 defeat against 4.25 SC of DPR Korea in the return leg of the Inter-Zone semi-final at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang Wednesday.

4.25 won the tie 5-4 on aggregate to reach the final for the second successive time after Abahani, the South Zone champion in the group stage, won the first leg 4-3 at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka last Wednesday.

A draw would have been enough for Abahani, who travelled to the Korean capital knowing that April 25, the last edition’s finalist and this edition’s East Zone champion, have never lost at home in the AFC Cup, and did not concede a single goal at home this season.

Portuguese head coach Mario Lemos’ side managed to resist the fast attacking line-up of 4.25 in the opening half that ended goalless, but the scenario changed after the DPR Korean top-scorer in the AFC Cup, Kim Yu-song, came off the bench following resumption.

AFC Cup 2017 Golden Boot winner Kim, who netted a total of 23 goals in three AFC Cup editions so far, including eight in the ongoing event, broke the deadlock four minutes into the second half, leaving the visitor on the backfoot, considering that the host had away goal advantage.

Abahani’s intention to come back into the game became even more difficult after the Bangladesh Premier League runners-up were reduced to 10 men when veteran defender Mamun Mia received a red card in the 67th minute.

Kim ended all the remaining hope of six-time Bangladesh Premier League champion when the DPR Korean national forward doubled the lead in the 83rd minute, and sealed his side’s second consecutive berth in the Inter-Zone final.

The North Korean champion will now face Hanoi FC of Vietnam, who defeated Altyn Asyr in their semi-final Tuesday, in the two-legged Inter-Zone final on September 25 and October 2.

The winner will go on to face the winner of the West Zonal final - either Al Ahed FC of Lebanon or Jordan's Al Jazeera - in the AFC Cup final on November 2.

Abahani earlier made history when they reached the knockout stages of the AFC Cup as the first ever club from Bangladesh. 

They finished the four-team Group E campaign on top with 13 points, including four wins, one draw and a single defeat.  

It was Abahani’s in-form attacking line-up that played a crucial role during their amazing journey, despite very little support from the back line.

They scored a total of 16 goals in eight matches, and conceded 10.

The Sky Blues are scheduled to return home Friday night.

Meanwhile, the conditions at the stadium Wednesday were not the very best as there were no internet connection, while the visiting team were also not able to talk to the media.

There were no live streaming of the match, as well as no live updates of the game.

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