AFC Cup rivals’ watch – Yangon United
East Bengal’s round of 16 opponents will be Myanmar’s Yangon United, who finished second in Group F after a 2-0 win over Hong Kong’s Sunray Cave JC Sun Hei on Wednesday. Yangon actually finished with more points than East Bengal in the group stage but lost out on top spot to Maldives’ New Radiant on goal difference.
The Kolkata club will have home advantage in this one-off tie, which will be played on May 15th, and it will be the first meeting between an Indian and Myanmar club in the AFC Cup. The Indian national team failed to qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup following a narrow defeat to Myanmar back in March.
East Bengal have the chance to take revenge against the domestic champions of Myanmar and reach the quarter-final of Asia’s Europa League for the first time since 2004.
Here is Sportskeeda’s profile on East Bengal’s pre-quarterfinal opponents.
The club initially was founded in 2007 when Yangon-based Htoo Group Of Companies took over first division club Viva FC. It was renamed as Air Bagan FC but two years later when Myanmar’s domestic football saw a complete revamp with the launch of the Myanmar National League, the club was came to be known as ‘Yangon United.’ Owned by Myanmar-based business tycoon Tay Za, Yangon were one of eight clubs that participated in the inaugural season of the new Myanmar National League, finishing second. They were fourth in the second season but won their first domestic title in 2011 and retained it the following year.
Besides success on the pitch, Yangon are considered to be one of the most professional clubs of Myanmar as they have a top class academy, their own stadium – although they are yet to play AFC Cup matches there – and a separate sports complex. The Myanmar club also have a tie up with Thailand’s BEC Tero Sasana. Their only previous appearance in the AFC Cup came in 2012 when they crashed out of the group stage finishing bottom of their group with just two points. But this year, they won five out of their six games, scoring 18 to become the first club from Myanmar to reach the knockout stage of the AFC Cup.
Yangon’s quest for a hat-trick of league titles hasn’t gotten off to a great start, as they are currently fourth in the 12-team league table with 16 points from nine matches. Former Indonesia and Myanmar national team coach Ivan Venkov Kolev of Bulgaria took charge in 2012 and won the league crown in his first season. Yangon retained a strong core of Myanmar players and Brazilian striker Cesar Augusto from last season, but crucially, they signed Australian centre-back Michael Cvetkovski and Ivory Coast striker Adama Kone, who scored 16 goals for Yadanabon in the Myanmar league last year. The addition of quality foreigners has been vital of course but the presence of several Myanmar internationals is also of great importance. Six members of the current Yangon squad were part of the Myanmar national team that finished ahead of India in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying group and thus they will be confident of a good showing on Indian soil.
Ivorian central defender Gnonsian Oulou is their fourth foreigner but he is unfortunately ruled out of this tie because of a double booking. Yangon are known to be a very attack-minded side with Cesar and Kone doing the bulk of the scoring. One of their major strengths though lies in midfield as they have several Myanmar internationals in that position who have been playing together for a long time.
The season in Myanmar only starts in January and thus this will only be Yangon’s 18th match of this campaign while for East Bengal it will be their 57th. So Yangon will be physically much fresher but they will be wary of Kolkata’s humidity and East Bengal’s perfect home record. The I-League club will play three games between now and May 15th but the Myanmar club too will be in action three days before the round of 16 match so it will be interesting to see how many regulars coach Kolev opts to rest.
The Australian of Macedonian origin has been instrumental in Yangon’s qualification to the round of 16. Cvetkovski, who is a 25-year-old central defender and has played in Macedonia, will have to be at his best to keep Edeh Chidi and company quiet.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder is a product of the Yangon United youth system and is already a key figure for both club and country. Lin has the ability to both create and score and he will be aiming to have an impact similar to the one he had against the Indian national team.
The Ivorian is the second highest scorer of this season’s AFC Cup with nine goals in six matches and will certainly be Yangon’s biggest goal threat. Kone’s presence and finishing qualities could cause plenty of problems to the East Bengal defence.