AFC Cup action on Wednesday saw a semifinal in the ASEAN Zone and matchday five action in the South, Central and East Zone. Let's take a recap of all that happened:
ASEAN ZONAL SF 1st LEG:
JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM 3-2 CERES NEGROS [Cabrera 18' Rahim 44' Bakri 68' - Fernando 21' Maranon 25']
Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim gained a slender advantage after defeating Philippine's Ceres Negros 3-2 at home in the first leg of the ASEAN Zone semifinals.
It was the home team who started the game well, with Gonzalo Cabrera embarking on a run down the middle and finding the bottom corner with an exquisite finish from outside the box. However, Ceres overturned the scoreline in a manic four minutes with Fernando Rodriguez and Bienvenido Maranon scoring for the away side. First, Fernando would feed the ball wide and then run on to meet the incoming cross with a diving header before Maranon found the top corner from outside the box four minutes later.
A stung Johor rallied hard in what fast turned out to be an end-to-end game. JDT Midfielder Safiq Rahim headed home a Fazly Mazlan cross just before half-time to pull his team level. In the 68th minute, the home team completed the turnaround when Hazwan Bakri turned smartly on the edge of the area and saw his left-footed shot take a deflection and nestle in the back of the net.
Johor would be pleased to have got the winner on the night but Ceres have the cushion of an away goal when the two teams meet again for the second leg.
GROUP D (CENTRAL ZONE):
DORDOI FC 1-4 FC ISTIQLOL [Soulemana 50' - Dzhalilov 7', 46', 75' Potapov (OG) 90+3']
Tajikistan's FC Istiqlol rode a hattrick from Manuchehr Dzhalilov to maintain their grip atop Group D and defeat Dordoi FC 4-1 away. FC Istiqlol, tied on points with Altyn Asyr, now know that a draw in the final game will see them through to the Inter-Zonal semifinals.
On Wednesday, it was all Manuchehr Dzhalilov. The Tajikistan forward opened the scoring as early as in the 7th minute when he placed a header from close range into the net from a Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev cross. He scored his second just after half-time when he capitalised on a poor piece of defending to send himself through on goal and slotted past the hapless Dordoi custodian. Though, Zarifou Soulemana pulled one back for Dordoi with a good header four minutes later, Dzhalilov completed his hat-trick in the 75th minute to seal the result. He intercepted a headed clearance and swivelled inside the area to find the net.
There was more misery for Dordoi when Egor Potapov contrived to score an own goal in the dying minutes of the game as Istiqlol celebrated a 4-1 triumph.
ALTYN ASYR 4-1 FC ALAY [Yakshiyev 33', 42', 82', 84' - Ahmedov 53']
A sensational display of goalscoring from Murat Yakshiyev saw Turkmenistan's Altyn Asyr keep pace with FC Istiqlol atop Group D after demolishing FC Alay 4-1 at home.
After a barren half an hour, Yakshiyev opened the flood gates with the opener in the 33rd minute when he redirected Suleyman Muhadov‘s shot beyond the Alay goalkeeper. Nine mintues later, he doubled the advantage with a close range finish from Arslanmurat Amanov's dangerous delivery into the box. However, Murolimjan Ahmedov cut Alay's deficit by half in the 53rd minute after latching on to Bakybek Mamatov's clever backheel.
But Alia Sylla's sending off in the 68th minute scuppered FC Alay's hopes of a comeback and Yakshiyev promptly netted his 3rd and 4th goal in a deadly two-minute spell to seal the game and the result.
GROUP E (SOUTH ZONE):
MOHUN BAGAN 3-1 BENGALURU FC [Jeje 9' Lewis 74' Bikramjit 80' - Doungel 52']
Bengaluru knew that regardless of the result against Mohun Bagan, they would need to beat group toppers Maziya SC in the final game and hence decided to rest their main players against Mohun Bagan. And they paid the price for it as early as in the ninth minute when a lovely chip over the Bengaluru defence from Raynier Fernandes left Jeje Lalpekhlua the simle task of beating the goalkeeper. The 201 runners-up equalised in the 52nd minute when Seminlen Doungel got on the ball and unleashed a stunner from 25 yards.
But Mohun Bagan stepped their game up and had the 'go-ahead' goal in the 74th minute through Kean Lewis who saw his shot at the end of a mazy run from the left wing take a deflection and loop over the goalkeeper. Midfielder Bikramjit Singh made it 3-1 six minutes later with a thumping strike from the edge of the area. But it was not enough to save Mohun Bagan from elimination but Bengaluru need only beat Maziya at home in the final game to progress to the next stage.
MAZIYA S&R 2-0 ABAHANI LTD DHAKA [Umair 59' Rakic 85']
Maldives' Maziya S&RC went three points clear at the top of Group E after a 2-0 win over Bangladesh's Abahani Dhaka on Wednesday.
After a barren first half in which the hosts could not make their dominance count, Mohamed Umair gave Maziya a vital lead in the 59th minute with a wonderfully floated freekick from the left wing that beat the goalkeeper and the defenders all ends up to nestle in the back of the net. Maziya had plenty of opportunities to double their lead thereafter but a combination of poor finishing and stunning saves from the goalkeeper thwarted them.
But Aleksandr Rakic made the win a surety in the 85th minute Mohamed Niyaz saw his shot parried on to Rakic's path and the striker obliged to send Maziya three points clear with a game to play.
GROUP I (EAST ZONE):
ERCHIM 0-5 4.25 SC [Yu-Song 23', 56', 85' Il-Born 38' Hyong-Jin 69']
North Korean outfit 4.25 SC secured qualification to the Inter-Zonal semifinals with a 5-0 trouncing of Erchim FC, thanks to striker Kim Yu-Song's hat-trick. After the win, 4.25 SC lead fellow North Korean outfit Kigwancha by three points and have a superior head-to-head record, which means even if Kigwancha win their game in hand, they won't be able to overtake 4.25 SC.
The first goal came in the 23rd minute when Kim Yu-Song saw his goal-bound effort deflected in off Dulguun Tumurbaatar. An Il-bom doubled their advantage before half-time with a neat finish from close range. The hapless Mongolians conceded a third in the 56th minute when Yu-Song lifted a finish over the goalkeeper after wriggling clear of the defensive line. Ro Hyong-Jin then made it 4-0 with a penalty before Yu-Song sealed the win and his hat-trick in the 85th minute with a side-footed finish.