City's unbeaten start to the 2019 season came to an end on Saturday night as Hà Nội won the top of the table clash 0-1 with a goal from Samson just before half time.
It was always going to be a tough test for City against a strong Hà Nội side boasting several Vietnamese U23 stars and possibly the V-League's most prolific strike force. However, City Coach Chung Hae-seong saw his side more than match their illustrious opponents for long stretches.
The SVĐ Hàng Đẫy was buzzing with anticipation with 13,000 in attendance to watch a game that only 24 hours earlier was due to be played behind closed doors. City were forced into making a couple of changes from the team that faced Viettel FC seven days earlier. Out went No. 2 Tùng Quốc, No. 9 Hoàng Thịnh and No. 11 Matias. In their place came No. 7 Ngọc Đức, No. 8 Thanh Bình and No. 77 Kesley. As for Hà Nội FC. In recognition of the importance of the game and City's form, Coach Chu Đình Nghiêm made three tactical changes. In came No. 11 Phạm Thành Lương (Captain) - replacing No. 74 Trương Văn Thái Quý, No. 15 Phạm Đức Huy in place of No. 8 Moses Oloya and No. 39 Hoàng Vũ Samson who replaced No. 90 Oseni Ganiyu Bolayi.
Apart from several U23 Internationals in it's ranks, Hà Nội FC was also able to call upon this season's (and last season's) top goal scorer Samson who had already scored 5 goals this season. City's squad in contrast is beginning to look a little thin on the ground. However, what this team does have is spirit and an absolute desire to fight for each other.
It was therefore no surprise that it was the home side, roared on by the crowd, who started the brightest. City Coach Chung Hae-seong adopting a more cautious opening - a tactic adopted in previous games with positive results. On 5 minutes - a Nguyễn Quang Hải (19) corner was met by Hà Nội's No. 28 Đỗ Duy Mạnh. Fortunately for City, his effort lacked the composure. Hà Nội were continuing to dominate the early stages and on 7 minutes No. 39 Samson was able to control the ball in the City penalty area. Although he was able to make good contact, his shot was well saved by the ever impressive City keeper Thanh Thắng. City were in danger of being over run. On the 10 minute mark, City were finally able to stem the tide with a period of organised passing. Unfortunately this period did not result in any openings for the City attack who were constantly moving to create space for the midfield to utilise. 17 minutes Hà Nội's Samson, receiving the ball from No. 5 Đoàn Văn Hậu, was able to fashion a chance. His shot this time went wide of the target.
The hosts were continuing to press and on 29 minutes had a shout for a penalty and once again it was Samson causing the problems. Escaping the City defence, Samson was about to pull the trigger when a last ditch challenge by No. 88 Christian halted his progress. Despite the claims, referee Ngô Quốc Hưng was unmoved and waved play on.
Despite the host's dominance, City were not out of the contest. On 31 minutes a good move down City's right saw the ball crossed into the area. Joel was able to flick the ball on to Kesley. His pass found Công Hiển (28) on the edge of the box. Unfortunately his shot was deflected high and wide for a corner. Hà Nội and the home crowd thought they finally had there breakthrough in the 34th minute. Striking partner Pepe Omar (20) had three opportunities to score. The third attempt found the back of the City net. However, to the relief of the City defence the flag was raised. Slow motion replays suggest that the striker may have infact been onside.
City were unable to get any real possession although it was not from the lack of effort. Tiny midfielder Công Hiển (28) was his effervescent self. Continually trying to gain that extra yard to feed the striking pairing of 77 Kesley and 94 Joel. Thanh Bình (8), Hữu Tuấn (15) and Công Thành (71) were continually trying to stem the flow and provide a barrier for the defence who themselves were competing admirably against their illustrious opponents. Ngọc Đức (7) was again having a solid game and under the directorship of Coach Chung Hae-seong seems a different player from the one that saw red last season and who many felt would never wear the red of City again. As the clock started to tick down on the first half City were almost undone. A precise pass found Hà Nội's No. 88 Đỗ Hùng Dũng. Only a last minute intervention by the solid performing Văn Thuận (14) prevented an opening.
Just when it started to look like City were going to get to the break intact, Hà Nội broke through and it was that man Samson. On 44 minutes, Nguyễn Quang Hải, who, despite his obvious talent, had been kept largely quiet by a determined City side was able to poke a delicate defence splitting pass through to Samson. Despite the best efforts of the City defence, Samson was able to poke the ball past City's stopper Thanh Thắng. 0-1 to Hà Nội FC. Samson's goal was the first time City had found themselves behind this season.
Half Time : Hà Nội FC 1 Ho Chi Minh City FC 0
City have aquired a habit of scoring goals in the second period so confidence was high and following the pattern of previous games, City started the second period on the front foot and in the 52nd minute Joel received the ball on the edge of the Hà Nội box but was unable to escape the attention of Hà Nội's No. 21 Trần Đình Trọng and the opportunity passed. Eight minutes later and City were to fashion another chance. Kesley (77) received the ball and despite the presence of two defenders was able to find his striking partner Joel. Unfortunately for City his effort sailed over the Hà Nội bar.
City's attacking play left them open to counter attacks and on 71 minutes a quick break resulted in a dangerous free kick on the edge of the City area. Nguyễn Quang Hải failed though to hit the target. Following the free-kick, Coach Chung Hae-seong made the first of his changes with No. 56 Út Cường replacing No. 99 Văn Thành who had once again proved his importance to the team. Six minutes later and the hosts thought that they had secured a two goal advantage. Đỗ Hùng Dũng (88) finished a flowing move but the goal was was correctly ruled out due to handball. Change number two came on 77 minutes with No. 20 Ngọc Thịnh coming on to replace No. 88 Christian who had sustained an earlier injury to his hand. City were beginning to find openings in the Hà Nội defence. On 78 minutes a flowing move saw down City's right resulted in a Văn Thuận (14) cross finding the head of Hữu Tuấn (15). His header was retrieved by the non-stop Công Hiển (28) who was in turn able to find Joel in the middle. His header, although well directed and with power was well saved by Văn Công in the Hà Nội goal.
City were by now pressing really hard, trying to prize open the host's defence. With 5 minutes left and in an effort to find a well deserved equaliser, Coach Chung Hae-seong played his last card, No. 18 Quang Nam replacing the ever lively No. 77 Kesley. Within two minutes it seemed as if the move would pay dividends. City were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the host's box. Up stepped Quang Nam. Unfortunately for City, Nguyễn Văn Công (30) in the Hà Nội goal reacted smartly and saved well.
As the clock entered the 3rd minute of stoppage time, City pushed forward hoping to snatch a last gasp equaliser. A cross into the Hà Nội box was met by the powerful Joel. However, as he jumped he felt his leg give way. Unable to jump high enough his header sailed over the bar. A few minutes passed as Joel received treatment on the pitch and the game ended with the sad sight of Joel being carried away on a stretcher.
Full Time : Hà Nội FC 1 Ho Chi Minh City FC 0
Hà Nội FC : 30. Văn Công, 13. Văn Kiên, 28. Duy Mạnh, 21. Đình Trọng, 5. Văn Hậu, 15. Đức Huy (8. Moses 90’+1), 11. Thành Lương (90. Oseni 58’), 19. Quang Hải, 88. Hùng Dũng, 39. Samson (74. Thái Quý 76’), 20. Omar.
HCMC FC : 1. Thanh Thắng, 7. Ngọc Đức, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 88. Epassi (20. Ngọc Thịnh 77’), 71. Công Thành, 99. Văn Thành (56. Út Cường 72’), 8. Thanh Bình, 14. Văn Thuận, 28. Công Hiển, 94. Vinicius, 77. Kesley Alves (18. Quang Nam 85’)
Follow This Link To Watch The Official Highlights on VPF YouTube Channel