FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks the five best performers from Match Day 1 of the ASEAN Zone action in AFC Cup 2020.
The ASEAN Zone action in AFC Cup 2020 kicked off this week and immediately produced some interesting twists and turns.
Debutants Hougang United got off to a winning start by beating Lao Toyota 3-1 to take the early lead in Group F, with Yangon United and Ho Chi Minh City sharing the spoils with a 2-2 draw.
Perennial challengers Ceres-Negros kicked things off with an emphatic 4-0 rout of Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng while Bali United were also comfortable 4-1 winners over Than Quang Ninh, suggesting that it will be these two sides vying for top spot in Group G.
Finally, in Group H, Tampines Rovers eked out a 2-1 win against PSM Makassar, while Kaya FC-Iloilo beat Shan United 2-0 with two goals in the final 16 minutes.
Here, FOX Sports Asia looks at the five best performers from the past week of AFC Cup action in the ASEAN Zone.
1) MAUNG MAUNG LWIN (YANGON UNITED)
He has been one of Yangon’s key players for the last few years now and has made no secret of his ambition to one day ply his trade overseas.
Highlights – Yangon United vs Ho Chi Minh City
And Maung Maung Lwin did his chances of being spotted no harms with a typically creative display against Ho Chi Minh City, assisting both of his team’s goals while also offering plenty of drive down the left flank.
2) STIPE PLAZIBAT (HOUGANG UNITED)
Back in 2017, Stipe Plazibat was in unstoppable form as he finished as the joint-second top scorer in the AFC Cup with eight goals for Home United.
Highlights – Lao Toyota vs Hougang United
Now in the colours of Hougang, the free-scoring Croat marked his return to continental action with a match-winning brace and an overall excellent display as the focal point of the Cheetahs attack.
3) BIENVENIDO MARANON (CERES-NEGROS)
One of the most-prolific marksmen in AFC Cup history, Bienvenido Maranon has scored 28 goals in the past three campaigns and added two more to begin 2020 on Tuesday.
Highlights – Ceres Negros vs Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC
Now playing in a more withdrawn role since the arrival of Robert Lopez Mendy, the Spaniard continues to be the Busmen’s main goal threat and was at his clinical best with two composed finishes against Svay Rieng.
4) PAULO SERGIO (BALI UNITED)
He may not have troubled the scorers at the Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium but Paulo Sergio was the architect, as Bali came from behind to beat Quang Ninh 4-1.
Highlights – Bali United vs Than Quang Ninh
Sergio was pivotal in the build-up to Muhammad Rahmat’s equaliser, produced a superb 50-yard pass that was volleyed home by Melvin Platje and was overall a constant thorn in the flesh of the visitors’ backline.
5) KYOGA NAKAMURA (TAMPINES ROVERS)
Jordan Webb and Boris Kopitovic were the ones on target in Tampines’ impressive victory on Wednesday, but it was Kyoga Nakamura who really caught the eye.
Highlights – Tampines Rovers vs PSM Makassar
The Stags pulled off a real coup by securing his services from Albirex Niigata (S) and, playing just in front of the defence but not as a traditional defensive midfielder, Nakamura allowed his team to build play from the back as he carried the ball through the lines and was great in tight spaces.