FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks the four players that shone the brightest in the first legs of the ASEAN Zone semi-finals of AFC Cup 2019.
The ASEAN Zone knockout round in AFC Cup 2019 officially got underway this week and, after 180 minutes of riveting semi-final action, there is still plenty to play for ahead of next week’s second legs.
On Tuesday, Ceres-Negros were initially on course for victory courtesy of Bienvenido Maranon’s 57th-minute opener before Pape Omar Faye struck ten minutes later to earn Hanoi FC a draw.
Wednesday’s action then saw Becamex Binh Duong produce a spirited display – despite having to play 40 minutes with a man less – as they claimed a 1-0 triumph over PSM Makassar.
Here, FOX Sports Asia highlights the four best players in the first legs of the ASEAN Zone semi-finals.
1) STEPHAN SCHROCK (CERES-NEGROS)
By now, most opposition teams would be aware that Stephan Schrock is one of the main players that makes Ceres tick, but whether or not they have what it takes to stop him is a completely different matter altogether.
Regardless of where he is deployed on the field, be it in the hole, on the flanks or sitting deeper in midfield, the former Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt man is always capable of dealing damage.
AFC Cup 2019: Ceres Negros 1-0 Hanoi FC (Bienvenido Maranon 57′)
It was a trademark piece of creative play from Schrock that led to Ceres taking the lead on Tuesday, as he made his way down the right before delivering an inch-perfect cross for Maranon to head home.
2) PAPE OMAR FAYE (HANOI FC)
Hanoi have no shortage of offensive threats and, while it is usually Ganiyu Oseni – the focal point in attack – that gets the most goals, Pape Omar Faye has proven to be capable of weighing in with his fair share from a wider or more withdrawn position.
His strike against Ceres – a composed close-range finish after being picked out by Pham Thanh Luong – was his 6th in the AFC Cup, taking his season total to 12 goals.
AFC Cup 2019: Ceres Negros 1-1 Hanoi FC (Pape Omar Faye 67′)
With Ceres likely to lock down on Oseni and playmaker Nguyen Quang Hai once again next week, Faye could just be Hanoi’s danger man as they look to advance into the zonal final.
3) TO VAN VU (BECAMEX BINH DUONG)
In a feisty clash at the Go Dau Stadium on Wednesday that was largely bereft of any real rhythm, To Van Vu was a shining light on the right wing for Becamex Binh Duong.
The 25-year-old offered plenty of energy and was never afraid to take his man on, and looked the likeliest source of a Binh Duong goal especially in the opening half hour.
Van Vu was completely spent by the time he was replaced in the 74th minute although it did work out for the hosts, as his replacement Nguyen Tien Linh went on to bag the winner just six minutes later.
Highlights – Becamex Binh Duong vs PSM Makassar
4) MARC KLOK (PSM MAKASSAR)
Although PSM ended up on the losing end despite having a numerical advantage for 40 minutes, one player that could walk off the field with his head held high was midfield general Marc Klok.
The Dutchman was his usual enterprising self as he snapped into challenges and won possession at will for the Indonesian outfit, before immediately looking to get them on the front foot with his tidy distribution.
Klok has bailed PSM out of a couple of tricky situations in the past so do not be surprised if he comes to the rescue once again next Wednesday as his team look to overturn a narrow deficit on home soil.