City saw their Cup dreams stolen from them at the SVĐ Hàng Đẫy thanks to a disgraceful refereeing decision from Nguyễn Đình Thái who chose to ignore two blatant fouls on City keeper Thanh Thắng before awarding Hà Nội FC the opening goal of the night.

Given the importance of the tie for both sides it was of no surprise that Coach Chung Hae-soung rang the changes from the team that ended the 2019 league season on a high winning 2-1 away to Hải Phòng FC just a few days ago.  From that winning team, three players retained their place in the starting XI : Thanh Thắng in goal, Christian in defence and Phi Sơn in attack.  Returning players included Captain Văn Thuận who partnered Hoàng Thịnh in midfield.  Hữu Tuấn returned to the centre of defence, Công Hiển on the left and in attack Ismaheel returned to the fore.  Mansaray started on the right side for City.  Công Thành (left) and Ngọc Đức (right) returned as wing backs.

Starting XI v Hà Nội FC.jpg

With barely 2 minutes on the clock the hosts were almost presented with the perfect start.  Phi Sơn (10) was dispossessed on the edge of the City box by Đức Huy (15).  The ball fell kindly to Hùng Dũng (88) who played a quick one-two with Quang Hải (19).  Hùng Dũng's cross into the City box was heading for the foot of Văn Quyết (10) who but for the quick intervention of City's Hữu Tuấn (15) might well have put the hosts one-nil to the good.

City's response was immediate.  A corner by Phi Sơn was headed back by the returning Ismaheel (24).  Công Thành's (71) effort sailing high over the bar.

City were certainly not in awe of their illustrious opponents and on 7 minutes fashioned another half chance.  Văn Thuận's (14) pass found Hoàng Thịnh (9) whose long range effort failed to trouble Minh Long (33) in the Hà Nội goal. 

Phi Sơn was perhaps lucky to escape with no booking on 9 minutes when a stray arm struck the face of Thành Chung (16) leaving the Hà Nội man with blood running down his face. 

12 minutes in and the hosts were to fashion an opportunity of their own.  A flighted free kick from Quang Hải (19) found its way to Đức Huy (15).  His shot easily saved by City's goal stopper Thanh Thắng.

City's captain Văn Thuận (14) became the first City player to go into the referee's book on 14 minutes pulling back fellow captain Văn Quyết (10). 

City were continuing to enjoy the lion share of the ball and on 16 minutes almost took the lead.  A quick attack saw the ever impressive Phi Sơn (10) feed Công Hiển (28).  Although his cross was cleared it found its way to Văn Thuận (14) on the edge of the Hà Nội box.  His shot being pushed for a corner by the diving Minh Long (33) in the host's goal.

The game was drifting along with neither team able to stamp their authority on the game and their was nothing to suggest what was to happen next.  On 34 minutes a Hà Nội corner was flighted in by Quang Hải (19) straight into the arms of a leaping Thanh Thắng (1).  His simple catch was impeded by a blatant barge from Văn Dũng (4).  However, the keeper was able to gather the ball only for it to be kicked out of his hands by Pape Omar (20).  Astonishingly referee Nguyễn Đình Thái (possibly under orders from the VPF) allowed the goal to stand sparking outrage among the City players.

City react to Nguyễn Đình Thái awarding

City players surround referee Nguyễn Đình Thái after the awarding of Hà Nội's first goal despite two clear fouls on City keeper Thanh Thắng.

photo courtesy of

Hà Nội FC 1-0 HCMC FC

This was not the first time that this particular referee had awarded a dubious decision against City.  On the 10th August the same referee awarded Hà Nội owned Quảng Nam a penalty despite the offence being clearly committed outside of the box.  The reaction to this decision was clear with City players appearing at one stage to be walking off the pitch in protest.  However, it later transpired that Coach Chung Hae-soung had summoned the players to remove them from a volatile situation and to remain calm.  Công Thành (71) became City's second recipient of a yellow card for his part in the protest.

A Smirking Nguyễn Đình Thái.jpg

A smirking Nguyễn Đình Thái  knowing that a big brown envelope is coming his way after awarding the goal

City were struggling to compose themselves after Nguyễn Đình Thái's decision with the hosts effectively camping inside the City half.  Although to their credit, clear cut chances were kept to a minimum and City were able to see out the remainder of the first half without further damage.  Indeed City almost pulled themselves level.  A long range effort from Hoàng Thịnh (9) being smothered by the Hà Nội keeper.  The hosts did find time for one final effort.  A header from Omar going harmlessly wide from a good position.


Half Time  Hà Nội FC 1-0 Ho Chi Minh City FC

Coach Chung Hae soung at Half Time.jpg

Coach Chung Hae-soung leaves the pitch at half time

Photo courtesy of

One can only guess what was said in the City changing room during the break.  However, if there is one thing we have learnt about this side is that they will not give up nor will they change their approach to the game.  Let others cheat, City will play the game properly.

Barely 28 seconds into the second period and the hosts had doubled their lead.  This time there could be no complaints from City.  A quick move involving Quang Hải (19) and Omar (20) saw Văn Quyết (10) released down City's right.  His cross was inch perfect for Văn Đại (29) who fired past a helpless Thanh Thắng.   Hà Nội FC 2-0 HCMC FC

Tempers were beginning to flare with Mansaray (80) becoming involved with Văn Quyết (10) who had in fairness been chirping away all match trying to influence an already biased referee.

City's pursuit of a way back into the game inevitably resulted in spaces being left at the back.  Ten minutes into the second half and the hosts almost killed the game off.  Văn Quyết (10) who was becoming more prominent as spaces appeared found Văn Đại (29) in space inside the City area.  His intended pass to Omar (20) was intercepted and the danger passed.  City's response was to launch an atrtack of their own.  Phi Sơn's (10) cross was pushed behind for a corner which found its way to Công Hiển (28).  Unfortunately, his shot was blocked and the opportunity passed.

Coach Chung made his first change of the evening replacing Công Thành (71) with Tăng Tiến (4) on 61 minutes.  Công Thành appeared to be carrying an earlier knock.

City were continuing to press with Christian (88) trying  bicycle kick from a Ngọc Đức (7) cross which went harmlessly wide of the target.  The visitors had an excellent chance to drag themselves back into the contest on 64 minutes.  A Văn Thuận (14) throw in was headed on by Ismaheel (24).  The ball falling to Mansaray (80) who was able to turn inside the area.  His strike however was high and sailed over the bar.  

Feelings were still running pretty high and on 66 minutes Omar could count himself lucky to only escape with a yellow card.  With the ball going out for a Hà Nội goal kick, he inexplicably pushed Mansaray in the back for no apparent reason.  Mansaray also receiving a yellow card becoming City's third player to go into the referee's book.

With twenty minutes remaining Coach Chung made his second change replacing Ngọc Đức (7) with a more attacking minded Hoàng Thiên (19).

The game was effectively put to bed with 15 minutes left on the clock.  Hùng Dũng (88) found Kebi (38) inside the City box.  He was able to turn.  His pass dummied by Omar (20) found Văn Quyết (10) with time and he was able to slot the ball home for Hà Nội's third of the evening.   Hà Nội FC 3-0 HCMC FC

Kebe had the chance to really rub salt into City's wounds on 78 minutes.  Clear through on goal his effort coming back off the crossbar with Thanh Thắng clutching at fresh air.  Moments later and Christian (88) became the fourth City player to go into the book for a rash challenge on Kebe (38).

Thanh Bình (8) became City's final change of the night replacing Mansaray who had run his socks off desperately trying to get City back into the game.

As the clock ticked down to the final five minutes of City's season, Kebe had another chance to score.  This time under pressure from Hữu Tuấn (15) his shot was blazed high over the bar.

City did have the final chances of the game.  Firstly Hoàng Thịnh (9) tried his luck from the edge of the box with Minh Long (33) was equal to the task in the Hà Nội goal.  The last effort, again from Hoàng Thịnh (9), curled wide of the far post.

Final Score Hà Nội FC 3-0 Ho Chi Minh City FC


Hà Nội FC: 33. Minh Long, 4. Văn Dũng, 10. Văn Quyết, 13. Văn Kiên, 15. Đức Huy, 16. Thành Chung, 19. Quang Hải (74. Thái Quý 89’), 20. Pape Omar, 28. Duy Mạnh, 29. Văn Đại (38. Ibou Kebe 61’), 88. Hùng Dũng.

HCMC FC : 1. Thanh Thắng, 7. Ngọc Đức (19. Hoàng Thiên 70’), 9. Hoàng Thịnh, 10. Phi Sơn, 14. Văn Thuận, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 24. Akinade, 28. Công Hiển, 71. Công Thành (4 Tăng Tiến 61’) 80. Mansaray (8. Thanh Bình 78’), 88. Ewonde

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©2018 by Darren Smale