City cemented their place in the race for a top four finish with a comprehensive 3 nil away victory over 4th placed Than Quảng Ninh at the SVĐ Cẩm Phả on Saturday evening.

Coach Chung Hae-soung made four changes to the starting XI from the one that had lost 1-2 at home to Becamex Bình Dương last time out.  Making his V-League 1 debut for City was keeper Bùi Tiến Dũng who replaced the ever reliable Nguyễn Thanh Thắng.  Defender Nguyễn Công Thành returned to the starting XI after appearing from the bench against Bình Dương.  There were also returns for Korean Seo Yong-duk, who continues to impress, and Trần Phi Sơn, both of whom featured from the bench last time out.

City's Starting Line Up

City's Starting XI Prior To The Match

An expectant home crowd and pumping music greeted the two teams as they made their way onto the pitch prior to kick-off.  City in second place and the hosts in forth were hoping to put on a show for the viewing public as each team strove to secure their place in the top eight prior to the mid-season cut after week 13.

Despite the home fans expectancy and noise. it was City who were to fly out of the traps and take the game to their hosts from the off.  The inclusion of Korean Seo Yong-duk (6) plus the guile of Phi Sơn (10) was giving City's midfield different options and allowing the forward pair of Nguyễn Công Phượng (21) and Amido Baldé (99) to focus on causing the Than Quảng Ninh defense all kinds of problems.  It didn't take long for City to make the all important breakthrough to silence the home support.

On six minutes, Baldé's involvement caused problems on the edge of the host's box.  Recieving the ball from Phi Sơn (10), the big forward was able to control the ball under pressure and find Văn Thành (39), his scuffed shot was somehow anticipated by an ever alert Công Phượng who was able to steer the ball past Tuấn Linh in the Quảng Ninh goal to give City an early boost and an early lead.  Than Quảng Ninh 0-1 City

Nguyễn Công Phượng Opens The Scoring For City

City were enjoying their best opening 10 minutes to a game in a long time.  Continually causing the home team problems with the movement of the front two beautifully supported by a fluid midfield.

However, on 14 minutes the hosts should really have been level in a game that up to then they had shown little.  Trung Hiếu (17) received a beautifully weighted pass from Quang Huy (24) but rather than find the target, his effort sailed over the City bar.

Any danger to City's lead was looking likely to be the result of a City error rather than being pried open by the hosts.  Twenty two minutes in and a long ball was inexplicably left by Văn Thuận (14) who chose to step over the ball rather than cut out the pass.  The ball found it's way to a totally unmarked Xuân Tú (7) who was able to pick out Fagan in the City box.  Fortunately for both City and Văn Thuận the striker was unable to find the target.

Bùi Tiến Dũng Shows Clean Hands

The home side were beginning to find their feet and moments after Fagan's miss it was the turn of Hồng Quân (8) to try his luck.  However, his effort from the edge of the City box followed the pattern of earlier efforts and went wide of its intended target.

Minutes later and the hosts were made to pay dearly for their wastefulness in front of goal.  A long, high clearance from Diakité (44) found Phi Sơn (10) who was able to beat Quảng Ninh's keeper Tuấn Linh to the bouncing ball.  His pass finding Baldé (99) in the box.  Although his initial effort was cleared for a City corner, the subsequent set piece taken by Phi Sơn (10) found the head of the tall striker who headed home via the underside of the bar to put City 2 up and in firm control. Than Quảng Ninh 0-2 City

Amido Baldé Celebrates Scoring City's Second Goal

The hosts continued to probe and with 26 minutes on the clock another chance came and went as yet again the effort missed its intended target.  Nguyễn Hai Long (88) firing wide from the edge of the box.

The game was entering a period more in keeping with the final moments of a cup game rather than the mid point of the first half of a league meeting.  On 29 minutes, City's Phi Sơn (10) collected the ball in the host's area and after gaining space saw his curling effort fly narrowly past the Quảng Ninh goal.

With five minutes left of the opening half, Công Phượng (21) broke down City's left.  His pass finding striking partner Amido Baldé (99) who chose to shoot rather than play in Phi Sơn who had found space on the edge of the box.

The hosts were almost back in the game on 41 minutes and it came via a City player.  A long pass into the box was intercepted by Sầm Ngọc Đức (7) whose defensive header narrowly went wide of the City goal with Tiến Dũng (35) a helpless spectator in the City goal.

With the clock ticking down to half time, a cross from the ever lively Xuân Tú (7) was headed on by Diakité (44).  His clearance only finding Quách Tân (27) at the far post.  His effort instinctively saved by Tiến Dũng who was excelling on his V-League 1 debut.

There was still time for one more opportunity for the hosts to get back into the game and as before the effort missed the target.  An inswinging corner found the head of Quách Tân (27) who managed to head over the bar from 3 yards out.

Half Time : Than Quảng Ninh 0-2 Ho Chi Minh City FC

Possibly with one eye on the expected home storm and one eye on the upcoming fixtures, Coach Chung chose to change things up for the start of the second period bringing on Ngô Viết Phú (5) for Nguyễn Công Thành (71)

Coach Chung Hae-soung plans another victory

Barely four minutes into the second period and the move paid dividends.  A corner from City's right taken by Công Phượng found the head of the newly introduced Viết Phú whose header flew passed Tuấn Linh to put City three - nil to the good.  Than Quảng Ninh 0-3 City

Ngô Viết Phú Makes It 3 Nil To City

The hosts were continuing to press the City goal and on 56 minutes a cross from Dương Văn Khoa (2) found the head of Hồng Quân (8) who headed wide of the City goal.

What followed was a period where neither team really threatened the other's goal.  City were content to control their half and to counter when the opportunity presented itself.  The hosts continued to probe but continued to be wasteful either in possession or in front of goal.

With four minutes left Hồng Quân (8) ghosted into the City box but his effort was straight at City stopper Tiến Dũng who saved comfortably.  City were heading for a valuable three points and a clean sheet as the race for a top eight finish intensified.

Team Celebrate With Fans At Full Time

The Squad Celebrates The Three Points

Full Time : Than Quảng Ninh 0-3 Ho Chi Minh City FC

Official Match Highlights

©2018 by Darren Smale