Xuân Nam strikes late to give City the victory over Thanh Hóa at an empty SVĐ Thống Nhất, and in the process make it two wins from two games as the Season stops for Covid-19
With the earlier games having been completed which saw Hà Nội FC surprisingly lose 1-3 away to Than Quảng Ninh, City knew that victory over Thanh Hóa would see them as the only side in V-League 1 with a 100% record after only two games of the season. However, as City had never previously beaten their opponents at the SVĐ Thống Nhất, the result was far from a formality.
City made five changes from Tuesday’s victory against Lao Toyota in the AFC Cup, for tonight's V-League 1 clash. Into the Starting XI come Ngọc Đức (7), Văn Thuận (14), Hữu Tuấn (15), Huy Toàn (16) & Văn Sơn (19). For Văn Thuận it was a welcome return making his first appearance of the season. As expected there was no Phi Sơn in the squad after picking up a knock in that game against Lao Toyota. Also missing out from the XI were Tùng Quốc (2), Viết Phú (5), Công Hiển (28) and Anh Tuấn (81). New boy Alex (88) was on the bench.
City's Starting XI
It was an empty Thống Nhất that greeted both teams as they made their way out of the tunnel. Due to the continuing Covid-19 health concerns, Round 2 of the 2020 LS V-League Season mirrored that of Week 1 with no fans allowed to attend. Obviously, the 100 or so dignitaries were immune to the virus and they were allowed to attend.
The Teams Enter The Pitch
Team Pose for Pre-Match Photo
City opted for what appeared to be a 4-4-1-1 formation with Công Phượng playing just behind lone striker Baldé.
City were to start brightly enough, controlling most of the possession in the opening 15 minutes. However, without much actual threat on the Thanh Hóa goal. Returning ex-City defender Christian Epassi and defending partner Văn Đại not really being troubled too much as City played sideways rather than forwards. Probing rather than penetrating.
City were gifted a half chance with barely two minutes on the clock. Hoàng Dương (19) needlessly giving away a freekick after fouling Baldé (99). Công Phượng (21) swang the freekick into the visitor's box, the clearance falling to Ngọc Đức (7) whose fierce shot was easily saved by ex-City stopper Thanh Diệp.
Despite their possession, it was to be the visitors and not City who were to fashion the games's next opportunity. On 18 minutes, Đình Tùng, receiving the ball in the City box following a Thanh Hóa corner, was allowed to control and swivel, seeing his effort deflected wide of the City goal. This seemed to waken the visitors more than the hosts with pressure increasing on Thanh Thắng in the City goal. Meanwhile, ex-City keeper Thanh Diệp was enjoying rather a more comfortable night than he probably expected.
The first half was proving to be more a battle of attrition and niggly fouls than one of flowing, open football. Within the first 30 minutes three players had entered the referee's book - City's Hoàng Thịnh (9), Huy Toàn (16) and Ngọc Nam (32) of Thanh Hóa being the recipients.
35 minutes into the first half and ex-City defender Christian was forced to leave the field following the effects of an earlier clashing of the heads with City defender Hữu Tuấn (15). A collision that left both players with bandaged heads although Christian's wound was definitely the worse as the blood refused to stop. He was to be replaced by Minh Tùng (5) who absolutely did not carry the same stature as the departing Christian.
City were missing the game changing ability of Phi Sơn with the game plan all too often being play sideways and try to penetrate via the wing. In a similar scenario to the game against Lao Toyota, striker Công Phượng was playing deeper and deeper in an effort to influence the game.
It was probably a relief to many that the referee choose to only add 3 minutes to the end of the first period. The first half ended as it had begun - goalless.
Half Time : Ho Chi Minh City FC 0-0 Thanh Hóa FC
In an effort to inject some life into City's attack, Coach Chung Hae-soung introduced new signing Alex (88) at the start of the second period replacing Huy Toàn (16) who had tried to penetrate the visitor's defence without much luck.
The second period started cautiously with neither team endangering the status quo. However on 54 minutes City almost had the breakthrough and it was the new man Alex who very nearly capped off his debut with a goal. Baldé (99), chesting down a long City clearance found his striking partner Công Phượng (21) who was fouled as he tried to play his way through the visitor's defence. With the referee playing advantage, the ball made its way to Alex who struck a fierce drive which Thanh Diệp smartly turned over the bar.
Công Phượng takes on Thanh Hóa
There then followed a frantic few minutes within the City area with the visitors having three presentable chances in quick-fire succession. First, a cross into the box was met by the head of Đình Tùng (2), who, under pressure from Văn Sơn (19) saw his header strike the post. Surprisingly the referee gave a corner although City's keeper Thanh Thắng was well beaten. The resultant corner fell to Văn Đại (33) who was allowed to turn. His shot blocked by Alex. However, the danger was not over, the ball being played back into the City box. Diakité's attempted clearance going up rather than out was sent back into thwe danger zone where Samson (39) was waiting. His close range effort being well saved by a grateful Thanh Thắng.
Just passed the hour mark and City's recent hit man Xuân Nam (11) was introduced. Replacing Ngọc Đức (7) who had completed another steady performance.
With the clock running down, Thanh Hóa's Đình Tùng (2) tried his luck from distance with the usually reliable Thanh Thắng fumbling the ball and grateful to see it go for a corner rather than nestle in the back of the City net.
We were now entering City time. As the game entered the fourth minute of the allotted minimum three additional minutes City were awarded a freekick on the edge of the Thanh Hóa box. Văn Thuận's (14) free kick was glanced on by Hữu Tuấn (14) and met by the head of the waiting Xuân Nam (11) who dispatched his header into the back of the visitor's goal to give City the three points. HCMC FC 1-0 Thanh Hóa
Xuân Nam Scores City's Winner
There was no time left for the visitors to react and as the referee blew for full time, City had secured their second victory of the 2020 LS V-League 1 season and their first home victory over Thanh Hóa.
HCMC FC: 1. Thanh Thắng, 7. Ngọc Đức (11. Xuân Nam, 63’), 9. Hoàng Thịnh, 14. Văn Thuận, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 16. Huy Toàn (88. Alex, 46’), 19. Văn Sơn, 21. Công Phương, 44. Diakité, 71. Công Thành, 99. Baldé (28. Công Hiển, 73’).
Thanh Hoá FC: Thanh Diệp, Đình Tùng, Balic, Hữu Dũng, Tanda, Thái Bình, Hoàng Dương, Ewonde (Minh Tùng, 36’), Văn Đại, Ngọc Nam (Văn Thắng, 75’), Samson (Văn Hội, 79’).
Final Score : Ho Chi Minh City 1-0 Thanh Hoá FC
Week Two Results
What's Next : City were due to travel to Hải Phòng FC this coming Friday (20th March) with Thanh Hóa visiting Quảng Nam. However, due to the continuing Covid-19 Health issues, the V-League 1 season has been suspended until the end of March. No new dates have been announced.