City made it seven points from a possible nine and two wins in three to go top of Group F after defeating Lao Toyota 2-0 at the New Laos National Stadium.
City made two changes to the team that won their opening V-League 1 game four days ago so brilliantly against Quảng Nam. In to the starting XI came midfielders Công Hiển & Anh Tuấn. Dropping out of the squad were Korean Yong-duk who joined City too late to be registered for the initial part of the AFC Cup campaign & Huy Toàn who seemed to pick up a knock on Friday night. Thanh Thắng continued in goal with Phi Sơn retaining the Captain's armband again in the absence of Văn Thuận. Viết Phú retained his place in the side after his impressive debut against Quảng Nam with fans eyes looking to Công Phượng and Amido Baldé to continue their goalscoring knowing that there was always Xuân Nam to call on if things weren't going to plan.
City's Starting XI v Lao Toyota FC
It was an empty National Laos Stadium that greeted the players as they left the tunnel. The AFC deciding to play the game behind closed doors due to the global Covid-19 health issues. With Yangon United's earlier 1-0 victory over Hougang United the stakes were high for both teams. City knowing that a win here would see them leave laos with seven points from nine and three home games to come. Failure to win for Lao Toyota would see them all but eliminated.
City Team Before The Game
It was City who were the fastest out of the starting blocks and within the opening two minutes could have found themselves a goal to the good. Công Phượng (21) sending in a delightful curling cross which Baldé (99) was able to direct toward goal. Unfortunately, Soukthavy Soundala in the Lao Toyota goal was able to direct the header onto the post and the ball was hacked away from danger.
The pitch was not helping either side but it was City who were to struggle the most on a pitch not conducive to their usual passing game.
City were however continuing to threaten the host's goal. A clearance from Công Thành (71) found the returning Công Hiển (28) who chose to shoot rather than seek out other options. His shot going high and wide.
Despite the pitch City were still persuing their passing game. With ten minutes on the clock, Công Hiển found Công Phượng in the middle of the park who was able to turn nicdely away from his marker before finding striking partner Baldé. His pass to Phi Sơn (10) was over hit and the opportunity passed.
A minute later and City really should have been one-nil to the good. And this time Baldé had only himself to blame for not finding the back of the net. Soukthavy spilled Phi Sơn’s low centre from the right into the striker’s path, but the tall striker somehow managed to drag the ball wide of the post.
The hosts were offering very little as an attacking side and instead reverted to cynical challenges as a away to derail City. Phithack Kongmathilath (17) receiving the game's first yellow card for a crude, cynical challenge on City's Công Thành.
Twenty minutes in and City created another half chance that was to go begging. Phi Sơn’s corner eluded everyone before finding Viết Phú (5) at the back. Unfortunately he was unable to repeat his goal scoring feat from Friday night and with the ball getting stuck between his feet, the chance passed.
The home side offered little in attack, save for a Goran Jerkovic header that flew straight at City's keeper Thanh Thắng as the visitors continued to dominate.
City were finding a way to combat the undulating pitch by playing a lot of 70 yard diagonal balls from the back to the feet of Phi Sơn. However, this method was to change on 25 minutes when following yet another crude challenge on a City player, he was forced off the pitch to be replaced by Văn Thành (39).
City's Baldé Directs His Header On Goal
As the half drew on, City were beginning to become more frustrated by the tactics of Lao Toyota. Công Phượng in particular was struggling to get into the game and began to drop deeper and deeper in an effort to become involed.
In the end, City were happy to hear the half time whistle so they could regroup. The hosts were happy to have survived 45 minutes with eleven men and no goals conceded.
Half Time : Lao Toyota FC 0-0 Ho Chi Minh City FC
Baldé was off target again in the opening exchanges of the second half when he headed over the bar under pressure from the Lao Toyota defence and soon after he was to make way for Friday's goal scoring hero Xuân Nam (11).
The breakthrough that both City and the game in general needed finally arrived in the 72nd minute with City punishing Lao Toyota for some awful defending. There appeared to be no apparent danger when Công Thành (71) floated a searching ball into the final third. Lao Toyota's Piyaphong Pathammavong (4) made a hash of an attempted interception followed by Norihiro Kawakami (44) falling over while trying to clear. It was Xuân Nam – who had only been on the pitch for twelve minutes – who pounced on the loose ball and advanced towards goal before lashing a ferocious drive into the back of the net. Lao Toyota 0-1 HCMC FC
Xuân Nam Celebrates Scoring City's First
City looked happy to sit back and consolidate their winning position. But, just for good measure, City were to add a second in the 90th minute and it was that man Xuân Nam who was on target once again, receiving possession inside the area from Công Hiển and leaving Kawakami for dead with a lovely feint before dispatching his shot past Soukthavy Soundala. Lao Toyota FC 0-2 HCMC FC
Xuân Nam Scores City's Second
There was no time left for Lao Toyota to spoil the City party and with the referee's final whistle, City had secured another three points on the road and moved to the top of Group F with three home games to follow.
Lao Toyota FC : Soukthavy Soundala, Saison Khounsamnan (Bounphithak Chanthalangsy 72’), Piyaphong Pathammavong, Norihiro Kawakami, Youssouf Mory Bamba, Somsavath Sophabmixay, Laercio, Manolom Phetphakdy (Alounnay Lounlasi 90+3’), Phithack Kongmathilath, Souksavanh Somsanit, Goran Jerkovic.
Ho Chi Minh City FC : 1. Thanh Thắng, 2. Tùng Quốc, 44. Pape Diakité, 5. Viết Phú, 71. Công Thành, 10. Phi Sơn (39. Văn Thành 25mins), 9. Hoàng Thịnh (15. Hữu Tuấn 90mins), 81. Anh Tuấn, 28. Công Hiển, 21. Công Phượng, 99. Amido Baldé (11. Xuân Nam 61’).
Final Score : Lao Toyota FC 0-2 Ho Chi Minh City FC