Hanoi: Despite a late scare, Hanoi FC held on to defeat Ceres Negros 2-1 and advance to the ASEAN Zonal Final for the first time in their history.
Having secured a valuable 1-1 draw away from home last week, the Vietnamese champions returned home confident they could get the job done and while they made hard work of it, the win was thoroughly deserved after they outplayed the Filipino side across the 90 minutes.
No welcome for Bienvenido
Ceres Negros' consistency in the AFC Cup across the last three years is largely thanks to their Spanish striker Bienvenido Maranon, who has proven a handful for defences across the region.
But Hanoi FC’s defence completely marked him out of the game, and without his influence and ability to lead the line, Ceres struggled in attack to create any meaningful chances until they pulled a goal back late in the game.
In fact, so good was the work of the Hanoi defence that Maranon failed to register a single shot, and while his heat map shows he was involved, it was well away from goal and away from danger.
What Hanoi did really well was push their defence up to restrict the space for Ceres to play in, which can be a risk by giving the opposition space to counter attack with.
But such was Hanoi’s midfield dominance that they denied Ceres that opportunity, and once again it was Nguyen Quang Hai who was at the heart of their dominance.
The star midfielder, as shown on his passing graph above, was prolific once again, finding space between the lines and getting forward, but also not abdicating his defensive duties, tracking back on a number of occasions to win the ball and start the attack inside his own half.
Hanoi FC's Dyanmic Duo
Strike duo Pape Omar Faye and Nguyen Van Quyet combined perfectly at the head of the attack, with the strike duo combining for both Hanoi goals on Tuesday.
It could, and perhaps should, have been a bigger margin though were it not for wasteful finishing in front of goal. As shown in the graph above, Hanoi peppered the goals but only two of their 13 shots were on target – and both of those found the back of the net.
Had they shown more quality and composure in front of goal, this could have been an even bigger win for the Vietnamese side.