Hanoi FC captain Nguyen Văn Quyet (right) runs the ball pass Ceres Negros midfielder OJ Porteria during their first leg match of the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal semi-finals last Tuesday in Bacalod. They will meet each other today in the second leg match at Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi. (Photo: kenh14)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA)
- Hanoi FC are closer to their first AFC Cup’s ASEAN Zonal final than ever as they prepare to host Ceres Negros of the Philippines at Hang Day Stadium on June 25 evening.

However, the hosts, who only need a goalless draw to secure their berth in the final due to the away goals rule, will be without their best players.

Hanoi FC drew 1-1 with Ceres Negros in Bacolod in the first leg of the semi-final match last week.

At a press conference on June 24, coach Chu Dinh Nghiem said the absence of key players may affect his team’s playing style, but he had a ‘plan B’.

“National team defender Tran Dinh Trong has left for Singapore for surgery, while a leg injury will keep Nigerian forward Ganiyu Oseni out till the end of the season. Midfielder Pham Duc Huy has not totally recovered from the flu so he may not make the starting line-up,” said Nghiem.

“Oseni is our key scorer with nine goals so far. Playing without him will be a challenge, but we have worked on plans to mitigate the fact he won't be leading our attack. Either Hoang Vu Samson or Pape Omar Faye can step in, and we have the advantage of playing at home.”

Faye scored the crucial goal to level the result last week and has found the back of the net six times.

Talking about his opponents, Nghiem said he had watched Ceres Negros from the group round and studied their tactics. They are really good at controlling the ball and some of their players can have an instant impact.

“We cannot afford to loose our concentration even for a second. We have our advantages but Ceres are a difficult team and they have more experience in the Zonal finals,” Nghiem said.

National midfielder Do Hung Dung said: “We understand them. They have national team players. They are skillful and fast. We have experienced them in the previous match and hope our tactics will work in the match tomorrow. We expect to have a slot in the final.”

On the other side, coach Risto Vidakovic confirmed Hanoi’s advantage but said his team would not give up.

The Serbian manager said Ceres Negros would work hard for the win.

Vidakovic said he could not describe his confidence of a win over Hanoi who were home to 10 national team players. Ceres Negros also had national players and secret weapons. They were 100 percent beating the hosts.

Captain Alvaro Silva, who played for Hanoi FC in 2017 and scored four goals, said the chances were equal for both teams. Playing against former teammates, especially national team members, would be a good experience for him and he believed Ceres would come through.

The match will kick off at 7pm and will be aired live on Fox Sports and VTC channels.-VNS/VNA