Vietnam’s FLC Thanh Hoa are into the qualifying playoffs of the 2018 AFC Champions League after defeating Eastern SC of Hong Kong 4-2 in the second preliminary round.
It was Eastern who drew first blood at the Mong Kok Stadium when Michel Lugo netted in the 25th minute, meeting a freekick from the left with a perfectly-guided downward header into the back of the net.
However, Pape Omar Faye equalised for the visitors six minutes later when he converted a penalty in emphatic fashion, after Yusuke Igawa had been penalised for handball inside the area.
Thanh Hoa then took the lead in the 58th minute when Hoang Dinh Tung was slipped through by Le Van Thang down the left and neatly finished into the bottom corner.
The same combination worked a treat once again on the hour mark as Dinh Tung ran onto Van Thang’s incisive pass before squeezing his shot past the onrushing Yapp Hung Fai.
Eastern did force their way back into the contest three minutes later when they won a penalty of their own, as Manuel Bleda made no mistake in converting from 12 yards.
FLC Thanh Hoa survive a late fightback to win 4-2 in the #ACL2018 Preliminary Stage 2!
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) January 23, 2018
But, deep into injury-time, Dinh Tung emerged as the hero of the evening as he pounced on a loose ball inside the area and slotted home to complete his hat-trick and seal his side’s progress.
They will now meet South Korean giants Suwon Samsung Bluewings next Tuesday, where another victory would see them qualify for the Champions League and head into Group H where Sydney FC, Shanghai Shenhua and Kashima Antlers are awaiting.
Photo credit: FLC Thanh Hoa