PETALING JAYA: Debutants Kuala Lumpur are just a match away from winning the coveted AFC Cup and coach Bojan Hodak is plotting another tactical master stroke when they take on Oman’s Al-Seeb in the final at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras on Oct 22.
The Croatian said Wednesday’s 5-3 shootout win over Uzbekistan club Sogdiana in the Asian Inter-Zone final at the Sogdiyona Stadium in Jizzakh was their toughest test yet.
“This was the biggest challenge and best team we’ve faced so far. We played in front of a full stadium and the home side had lots of good players but we still managed to stop them,’’ said Hodak.
“With teams that attack you high, you must always find a way to hit on counter attacks or set-pieces. Now, we will study Al Seeb and try to see how we can hit them.”
KL were under pressure as Sogdiana held possession throughout the match, which ended 0-0 after extra time.
The City Boys only managed eight shots while their rivals had 28 on target.
But KL absorbed the pressure well, blocking wave after wave of Sogdiana attacks and taking the game to penalties where they emerged triumphant thanks to the heroics of Filipino international goalkeeper Kevin Mendoza, who saved Shakhboz Jurabekov’s spot-kick while his teammates successfully converted all five.
KL are only the second Malaysian side to reach the final after Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), who won the title in 2015.
Hodak hailed his side’s run to the final as an unbelievable success for the club and Malaysian football.
“We are a small club with a small budget. This is not only a triumph for us but also for Malaysian football.
“We will try to go until the end because this is a dream for us, and we want to get the trophy.
“I said before the game that Uzbek football is at a higher level than Malaysian football. We expected the game to go this way, we expected them to dominate at home, but we were able to block their chances and waited patiently for counter attacks.
“We had two or three good counter attacks but in the end, we had to wait for penalties where luck was on our side.”
En route to the Inter-Zone final, KL had overcome Vietnam’s Viettel FC away, PSM Makassar of Indonesia at home and ATK Mohun Bahan of India away.
Meanwhile, Sogdiana coach Ulugbek Bakaev was disappointed with the outcome.
“We are disappointed, but life goes on. I can’t blame the players as they tried their best.
“We know penalties are the worst way to lose in football and we were unlucky,” he said.