Yangon: Coach Valakone Phomphakdy is intent on maintaining Lao Toyota’s winning start to the 2016 edition in their return clash with Ayeyawady United on Wednesday, after the side suffered a dramatic defeat in last year’s AFC Cup tie with the Myanmar club.
Lao led 3-2 until the 80th minute of their 2015 AFC Cup meeting (pictured) at Yangon’s Youth Training Centre in Group H on Matchday Five only to see goals from Riste Naumov and Edison Fonseca give the 10 men of Ayeyawady a shock comeback win.
Phomphakdy’s side have already bettered last year’s maiden continental campaign where they went winless, though, after they secured their first-ever AFC Cup victory with a 2-1 home win over India’s JSW Bengaluru a fortnight ago.
“Last year we shared a group Ayeyawady so we know them well; we know they are strong and we must concentrate in this match but I think we’re well prepared,” said Phomphakdy.
“We've changed our coach, our system and some of our players since then. We're hoping to play better than last year.
“In our first match at home we won three points. Away from home things are different but we still hope to bring points back."
Lao defender Moukda Souksavath will, though, be suspended after his sending off against Bengaluru.
Opponents Ayeyawady endured a difficult start to this year’s AFC Cup campaign after they suffered an 8-1 defeat at the home of defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia.
However, coach Kyaw Lwin believes his side will bounce back on home turf.
“Losing 8-1 didn't affect our confidence. We have respect for our opponents and they had more power than us. But that result didn't affect the confidence of our team,” he said.
“The coming match is the most important. Three points tomorrow will give us a chance to qualify, anything else and it will be very difficult to advance."
Ayeyawady’s Japanese forward Takuma Nishihara is, however, an injury concern ahead of the tie.
In Group H’s later game, Bengaluru will host holders Johor and coach Ashley Westwood is confident of giving the Malaysian giants a tough test at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Banglore.
“We know what to expect from JDT. They have a good side and good players with the likes of the captain of Malaysia and the Brazilian centre-half – but they are not unbeatable,” said Westwood, who will be waiting on the results of late fitness tests to defender Curtis Osano and forward C.K. Vineeth.
“We just want to out there and give a good account of ourselves. The objective is to qualify for the knockout stages.”
Johor coach Mario Gomez, though, is intent on keeping his side’s momentum going and will be looking to continue their impressive start to the tournament.
“I think it’s very important to win and not draw the match as we are AFC Cup defending champions,” said Gomez.
“Bengaluru are a strong team and it will be a tough game for us, but the morale is good in the team and it’s the same group that won last year’s tournament.
“This year, we have started well, we are motivated and the team is in good spirits.”
Photo: Lagardère Sports