AFC Cup ASEAN Zone Match Day 6: The Top 5

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

“Same Same But Different: Your Asian Football Show” picks the five standout players from the Match Day 6 action in the ASEAN Zone of the 2018 AFC Cup.

The group stage of the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone reached its conclusion this week and it is now down to four contenders vying for regional glory.

Persija Jakarta secured their spot in the knockout round on Tuesday with a 4-2 win over Tampines Rovers to seal top spot in Group H, while Song Lam Nghe An finished second despite a 3-2 defeat at Johor Darul Ta’zim.

Yangon United had already booked their place in the last four prior to the final round of action and were unable to claim a fifth win of the campaign as they were held to a 3-3 draw by FLC Thanh Hoa, a result which allowed Global Cebu to climb into second spot in Group G as they claimed a shock 3-1 victory away to Bali United.

Finally, Home United produced a massive upset as they beat Ceres-Negros 2-0 in Bacolod to finish first in Group F, leaving their opponents having to advance as the best-placed runners-up, while the dead rubber at the Thuwunna Stadium saw Shan United fall to a heavy 4-1 loss to Boeung Ket.

Here, FOX Sports Asia picks the five best performers from the final round of the group stage action in Southeast Asia.

Maung Maung Lwin (Yangon United)

Maung Maung Lwin is becoming a regular feature in the Top 5 and continues to establish himself as one of the region’s biggest attacking threats.

Unlike the type we have grown accustomed to in recent times, the 22-year-old is a old-fashioned winger who hugs the touchline, looks the hit the byline and prefers assisting over scoring on own.

On Wednesday, it was an excellent corner delivery that was flicked on for Sekou Sylla’s opener, before he laid on two excellent passes – the second a fantastic curling freekick – that led to his side’s other two goals.

Maycon Calijuri (Boeung Ket)

While it has overall been a disappointing campaign for Boeung Ket, Maycon Calijuri has been a shining light for the Cambodian outfit and his starring display ensured they finished with a pride-salvaging victory over the champions of Myanmar.

The Brazilian’s best asset is arguably his deadly finishing – exemplified by the way he clinically took both chances he was presented against Shan – but he also does plenty of good work to create opportunities for his fellow forwards.

With five goals to his name in this season’s AFC Cup, Maycon concludes the group stage as joint-fourth highest scorer in the ASEAN Zone, behind only Marko Simic, Sylla and Bienvenido Maranon.

Riko Simanjuntak (Persija Jakarta)

Like Maung Maung Lwin, Riko Simanjuntak is proving impossible to omit each week as long as he plays to the best of his abilities.

He may not have got on the scoresheet on Tuesday but his skillful dribbling and sheer pace caused problems for the Tampines defence all night long.

The highlight of his evening came in the 51st minute when he received possession inside his own half, embarked on a 50-yard dash that left Fahrudin Mustafic in his wake, before unselfishly playing in Novri Setiawan for Persija’s third.

Izzdin Shafiq (Home United)

Given Home only needed to avoid a defeat by five goals or more on Wednesday to secure their place in the last four, few would have expected them to do anything more than arrive at the Panaad Park and Stadium playing for a draw.

Granted, they did adopt a conservative approach and were more than happy to let Ceres enjoy the lion’s share of possession, but they also did look to hit on the counter, a plan which proved to be a masterstroke as they claimed what has to be the epitome of a “smash-and-grab” win.

Captain Izzdin Shafiq embodied the Protectors’ battling spirit and – together with M. Anumanthan – provided a real shield in front of the backline, but even found time to find the back of the net with a freekick that sailed through a sea of players before bouncing past a rooted Toni Doblas.

Rufino Sanchez (Global Cebu)

If only Global had played every game like they did against Bali, they easily could have emulated last year’s feat of reaching the ASEAN Zone semi-finals.

A solid finish saw them claim seven points in their final three Group G matches and a major factor behind this upturn in form has been some deadly displays up front by Rufino Sanchez.

Some free-scoring displays in Philippines saw him earn a move to Thailand a few years back and, while he is now back with Global, he has lost none of his finishing ability, as he showed with a fine double on Wednesday.