|Who needs Messi? Argentinean Gaston Merlo bagged a hattrick as Da Nang defeated Maziya Sports and Recreation 3-1 on Tuesday to progress to the next round of the AFC Cup, which takes place on May 14. — Photo thaisonnamfc.com
DA NANG (VNS)— A hattrick from Gaston Merlo powered SHB Da Nang to a comfortable 3-1 win over Maziya Sports and Recreation in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup on Tuesday.
The win over the Maldivians placed Da Nang second in Group G with 12 points and confirmed their qualification for the competition's knock-out stage. They will travel to Indonesia to face Semen Padang on May 14.
Malaysia's Kelantan also progressed after beating Myanmar's Ayeyawady United 3-1, topping the group with total 13 points in the process.
If Da Nang are to succeed in the tournament they will have to rely on Merlo continuing his fine run of recent form. The Argentinean is leading the club's scoring charts this season and he demonstrated his importance to the team once again in Tuesday's tie, running rings around Maziya's bewildered defence.
He scored two goals with his head in the first thirty minutes as the home side asserted their dominance. The visitors managed to pull one back on the brink of half time after Hassan Adhuham cannoned a shot into the corner of Pham Van Thach's net.
Da Nang regrouped during the break and had the better of the second half. Their third and decisive goal finally came in the 68th minute when Merlo beat the offside trap to expertly meet a fine long pass from Hung Son and fire the ball past the stranded keeper.
The competition's other Vietnamese representatives Sai Gon Xuan Thanh (SGXT) missed out on a place in the last 16 after suffering a 1-4 defeat to unbeaten Group H winners East Bengal.
First-half goals from Chidi Edeh and Andrew Barisic put East Bengal in a commanding position at the break before a quick-fire second half double from Nigerian midfielder Penn Orji effectively ended the tie.
The final qualifying spot went to Malaysia's Selangor, who were level on points with SGXT but progressed by virtue of their superior head-to-head record. — VNS