Home Fixture and missed penalty cost 4.25 SC final spot
4.25 SC missed out on a spot in the AFC Cup final losing out to Turkmenistan side Altyn Asyr on away goals after the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate. The first leg in Pyongyang ended in a 2-2 tie, and the return leg in Turkmenistan finished 1-1 meaning the Turkmen progress to the final.
Things could have ended up so differently, had the North Koreans converted the penalty they were awarded in the game, but An Il-bom stepped up and missed from the spot, meaning the Turkmen still only needed 1 goal to progress.
A tale of two penalties help Altyn Asyr progress
After 4.25 SC missed their penalty, Altyn Asyr were given their own, and Vahyt Orazsakhedov made no mistake from the spot to bring the tie level and put Altyn Asyr in the driving seat to make it to the final of the competition.
4.25 SC was unable to get another goal, and in the end, went out on away goals as for the second year running they get knocked very close to the final of the AFC Cup. The lack of competition in the East Asian section could actually be hindering their chances of progress as they get to the final stages of the competition and the opponents get more competitive.
Lack of competition in East Asia hindering progress
4.25 SC is the strongest team from East Asia every year, and in the group stage this year they had no problems at all navigating their route past the opponents from their geographical region. The other side from North Korea, along with the sides from Macau and Taiwan offered up close to no challenge to 4.25 SC for the top spot and the chance of progression.
This may seem like a good thing because it means that 4.25 SC make it to the final rounds of the competition every year, but this is where the problem begins. The lack of tougher opponents in the first rounds of the competition doesn’t help once they come up against the more difficult sides. The sides from the other zonal regions of Asia have difficult opponents to play against all through the competition, and the smaller East Asian leagues need to step up and become more competitive otherwise East Asia will never perform well in the AFC Cup. This may improve next season with the addition of clubs from Hong Kong as their coefficient has dropped so much that they now will have to enter the AFC Cup instead of the AFC Champions League.
Until the region becomes more competitive, no East Asian side will win the AFC Cup for the considerable future.