|Footloose: Nigerian striker Dickson Nwakaeme (right) of Kelantan keeps the ball from Da Nang's defender Tran Hai Lam during their AFC Cup's group-round match yesterday. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh
DA NANG (VNS)— Nigerian striker Dickson Nwakaeme scored the only goal to help visiting team Kelantan of Malaysia edge past hosts SHB Da Nang 1-0 in the Asian Football Confederation Cup yesterday in Da Nang City.
The Nigerian broke through the hosts' defence with a quick counterattack in the 75th minute to beat keeper Nguyen Thanh Binh and send the ball flying into the net.
The hosts did all their best with a full-power squad for the second-leg game, but their strikers and midfielders failed to score even though they had many chances.
Malaysia's Kelantan took the top place in Group G with 10 points, while Da Nang secured second place with seven points.
Da Nang started an offensive play with the support of 12,000 fans at Chi Lang Stadium, but Argentinean Gaston Merlo and left-winger Huynh Quoc Anh missed two clear chances in just 25 minutes.
Midfielder Pham Nguyen Sa nearly scored a goal in the 40th minute, but his shot skimmed the post.
In the second half, the hosts kept control of the game better, with the maestro Nguyen Minh Phuong and powerful winger Quoc Anh, but top Argentinean scorer Gaston Merlo and Tanzanian David Danny could not get the ball in even though they had clear opportunities.
In the 65th minute, maestro Nguyen Minh Phuong fired a free kick to hit the post, but Anh Khoa failed to net the ball from a rebound.
Kelantan, who grabbed a 5-0 win in the first leg game at Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium in Kelantan last week, set up a defensive play with five defenders including powerful Lek Kcira of Croatia and Nigerian Obinna Nwaneri.
The visiting team left only one striker Dickson Nwakaeme, with support from Dimitrios Petratos from Croatia.
Kelantan's strong defence and rapid attacks paid off in the second half.
After a well-timed kick in the 75th minute, Dickson gained momentum to pass Romanian Sabin-Cosmin Goia and Tran Hai Lam and net the ball in a face-off with keeper Thanh Binh.
Malaysian goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi had a perfect day, parrying four close shots in the last 10 minutes of the game.
"Da Nang missed many chances in the first half. However, our players did better with only two clear opportunities," Croatia's Bojan Hodak, coach of Kelatan, said at a post-match press conference.
"I think Da Nang are still tough opponents for us, as we had to play our hardest to beat them in two matches."
Da Nang coach Le Huynh Duc said his players tried their best in a tough game.
"Kelantan played so strongly today. They set up a good defence from the start, while our players failed to score from close-range attacks," Duc said.
He added that Da Nang, with two games ahead, still had a hope of qualifying for the next group stage.
In the other match played yesterday, Myanmar's Ayeyawady United grabbed their first victory, beating Maziya Sports and Recreation from the Maldives 3-0.
Da Nang are scheduled to play Ayeyawady United on that team's turf on April 23 and Maziya Sports and Recreation at home on April 30. — VNS