City returned to winning and scoring ways after two games without either a win or a goal. A first half header from Seo Yong Duk and two second half goals from Công Phượng and Huy Toàn gave City a much needed victory in front of a healthy crowd at the SVĐ Thống Nhất.
All the pre-match talk was about the news released earlier of the departure of midfielder Alex De Lima. The official announcement reported family concerns as the reason for the mutual termination of his contract. Alex made three appearances for City during his stay and showed the signs of becoming an important part of the City squad.
City made four changes to the starting line up as they attempted to put the previous Friday night's disappointment behind them. Into the XI came midfielders Hoàng Thịnh (9) who took over the captain's armband from Văn Thuận who dropped to the bench, Ngọc Đức (7) and Huy Toàn (16). Striker Baldé (99) returned to the team after missing the 0-1 defeat to Sài Gòn the previous Friday. Also dropping to the bench from that game were Trần Phi Sơn (10), Nguyễn Xuân Nam (11). The forth change was a result of the earler mentioned departure of Alex.
City Pose For Pre-Match Photo
City fans were treated to an uncanny feeling of déjà vu as it was once again the visitors who were fastest out of the blocks. With barely three minutes on the clock, Viettel's No.28 Hoàng Đức was allowed to shoot. His effort turned out for a corner by an alert Thanh Thắng in the City goal. The resultant corner gifted Bruno (37) an excellent opportunity to open the scoring for the visitors but somehow he contrived to miss the target.
Unlike the previous Friday night's game, the early stages were not all one way traffic with City playing their part. On 7 minutes an opportunity arose for City in the form of their own corner. Unfortunately for both club and fans, Công Phượng's delivery was well short of his usually high standards and the chance passed.
The visitor's were definitely enjoying more of the ball during the opening stages with almost 57% of ball possession.
With a quarter of an hour on the clock Viettel's Bùi Tiến Dũng (4) almost caught out City with a sharp shot. Once again, City's keeper Thanh Thắng was alert to the danger.
City had to wait until the 22nd minute for their first real chance and it fell to the ever impressive Diakite (44). His shot saved well by visiting keeper Nguyên Mạnh (26).
And then it came. The moment City fans had been waiting 296 minutes for. A City goal. Hoàng Thịnh (9) played a fantastic cross field pass to an impressive Công Thành (71) who goes about his work largely unnoticed but definately not unappreciated. Unlike the Viettel defense, he spotted the run of South Korean Seo Yong Duk (6). The cross was inch perfect for the Korean who rose and met the ball. His touch was equally spot on and the ball nestled in the back of the visitors goal. One nil to City.
Seo Yong-duk Scores City's Opener
Just after the half hour mark and it was almost 2 nil. Công Phượng's corner being palmed onto the post by a frantically back peddling Nguyên Mạnh in the Viettel goal.
Viettel responded as expected. Hoàng Đức's effort being easily saved by Thanh Thắng who is possibly Vietnam's best keeper playing in the V-League.
Bùi Tiến Dũng was next to try his luck for the visitors but as with all that went before, the effort was either saved by City's keeper or as was the case this time, wide of the mark.
As the clock ticked down to half time Bruno almost found himself with a presentable opportunity. Almost that was until the positional awareness and long legs of Diakité (44) stopped his effort before any danger could arise.
There was still time for City to fashion one last chance before half time. Striker Baldé was all alone in the Viettel box but for whatever reason, the pass to him went unnoticed by the big forward and the gift wrapped chance went.
Half Time : Ho Chi Minh City FC 1-0 Viettel FC
Coach Chung made two changes to the City side during the break. On came Lê Đức Lương (12) and Phạm Văn Thành (39) replacing Nguyễn Công Thành (71) who appeared to take several knocks during the first half and Sầm Ngọc Đức (7).
The second period started in similar vein to that of the first, with the visitors on the attack. Khắc Ngọc's (12) effort three minutes into the half going harmlessly over the City bar.
City's Công Phượng was continuing to be closely marked by the Viettel defense but his involvement was becoming more influencial as the game wore on. Continuing to probe and look for space it would only be a matter of time before someone suffered at the hands of one of Vietnam's finest young stars.
Công Phượng Continues To Probe
61 minutes in and the young star's moment duly arrived. Receiving the ball on the edge of the Viettel box, City's No.21 was able to find a way through the defense before firing left footed into the visitors goal via the far post giving Nguyên Mạnh no chance. Công Phượng had his first V-League goal of the season, City had their second of the game. City 2-0 Viettel.
Công Phượng Scores City's Second
Minutes later and City were three-nil up and that man Công Phượng was involved again. This time providing the pass for Huy Toàn (16) to race clear before rounding the keeper and sliding the ball home for City's third of the evening.
Huy Toàn Races Away To Make It 3 nil
The visitor's were now a spent force becoming more petulant in their challenges looking to foul rather than find a way back into the game. City were beginning to enjoy themselves on the pitch and the City faithful were enjoying themselves in the stand.
With little over a quarter of an hour left, Coach Chung made his third change of the evening bringing on Club Captain Đỗ Văn Thuận (14) for the evening's stand in Captain Hoàng Thịnh (9) who had once again impressed in the red of City.
For City it was a case of winding down the clock without sustaining any injuries. For Viettel it was damage limitation. With eight minutes left, Công Phượng became City's forth change being replaced by another crowd favourite Trần Phi Sơn (10). Công Phượng left the field to rapturous applause starring in what was an impressive overall team performance.
City's third goalscorer of the evening Huy Toàn became City's fifth and final change being replaced by Ngô Viết Phú (5) who his himself proving to be an astute signing.
City : 1. Thanh Thắng, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 44. Diakité, 71. Công Thành (12. Đức Lương 45mins), 2. Tùng Quốc, 6. Seo Yong Duk, 9. Hoàng Thịnh (capt) (14. Văn Thuận 72mins), 7. Ngọc Đức (39. Văn Thành 45mins), 16. Huy Toàn (5. Viết Phú 87mins), 21. Công Phượng, 99. Baldé.
Viettel : 26. Nguyên Mạnh, 3. Ngọc Hải, 4. Tiến Dũng, 7. Caique, 12. Khắc Ngọc, 21. Đức Chiến, 29. Tiến Anh, 28. Hoàng Đức, 99. Mạnh Dũng, 91. Walter, 37. Bruno.
Final Score : Ho Chi Minh City 3-0 Viettel FC
Official Match Highlights
City travel to Vinh to take on current League leaders Sông Lam Nghệ An on Tuesday evening in what will be another intriguing contest. Sông Lam Nghệ An gaining top spot after winning 1-0 away to reigning champions Hà Nội FC inflicting what was Hà Nội's first home defeat since 17 August 2016.
For Viettel, it is a home game against Thanh Hóa on the same evening and a chance to put tonight's defeat behind them.