Vietnamese champions Hanoi FC have managed to set an all-time record in the AFC Cup despite bowing out of this season’s competition in the Inter-Zone Play-Off Final.
DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC had overcome V.League outfit Hanoi in the Inter-Zone Final of the AFC Cup 2019 to book a place in the final of the continental competition where they will now face Lebanon’s Al Ahed FC who are the West Asia Zonal Final winners.
The two teams had played out a 2-2 draw at the Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi in the first leg and the newly-crowned V.League 1 champions, needing a win at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang in the second leg, could only manage a goalless draw resulting in the end of their campaign.
AFC Cup 2019: Hanoi FC 2-1 4.25 SC (Papa Ibou Kebe 28′)
However, that did not stop them from setting the record for playing the most number of matches in a single AFC Cup season.
Chu Dinh Nghiem’s Hanoi FC have played a total of 14 matches at this season’s AFC Cup — more than any other team in the history of the competition.
Also, if you include the AFC Champions League 2019 qualification phases where Hanoi defeated Bangkok United 1-0 in the preliminary round two and then lost out to Chinese Super League outfit Shandong Luneng in the play-off stage, the number of matches they played in Asia stands at a whopping 16!
In the group stages of the AFC Cup 2019, Hanoi played six matches to progress from Group F featuring Tampines Rovers, Yangon United and Nagaworld FC.
From there, they made it into the ASEAN Zonal Semifinals where they defeated Ceres-Negros FC over two legs and then the ASEAN Zonal Final where they brushed aside local rivals Becamex Binh Duong FC over two legs.
AFC Cup 2019: Hanoi FC 2-1 Altyn Asyr (Nguyen Quang Hai 61′)
That took them to the two-legged Inter-Zone Play-Off Semifinal against Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr FC and then to the Inter-Zone Play-Off Final against April 25 that brought an end to their 14-match run in the competition.
Since the new format of the AFC Cup was introduced in 2017, teams from ASEAN have to play 15 matches in total in order to lift the trophy and it is Hanoi who have reached the farthest in that long journey since so far.
Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) won the AFC Cup in 2015, but at that time, they only played a total of 11 matches on their way to securing their first continental title, while Binh Duong who reached the semifinals in AFC Cup 2009 also played 11 matches.