Hoàng Anh Gia Lai became party poopers on a night when City were to collect their medals for finishing Second Place in the League Table winning 1-2 at the SVĐ Thống Nhất in front of a sizable crowd eager to party.
Before the game had even started Coach Chung Hae-soung sprung a surprise naming an all Vietnamese squad for the game. There were to be no place for Christian, Mansaray or Ismaheel. Club Captain Kesley had just returned from treatment in Thailand and striker Matias was continuing his road to recovery in Chile. In to the starting XI came Huỳnh Văn Thanh (86) and Trần Phi Sơn (10) who finally seems to be over the injury that had plagued him all season. Nguyễn Thanh Diệp (25) replaced Nguyễn Thanh Thắng (1) in the city goal.
City started the game brightly, eager perhaps to show the massed journalists the reason behind the club's success this season.
After a largely uneventful first 15 minutes the game almost came to life and it was the visitors who were to threaten the score board. HAGL's Vũ Văn Thanh (17) was able to find Dos Santos (99). As the striker was about to burst free into the City box he was upended by Tùng Quốc (2) who duly received the game's first yellow card. Although at first it appeared that the referee had shown a yellow card to Hữu Tuấn (15). Trần Minh Vương (8) curled the resulting free kick against the City upright with keeper Thanh Diệp (25) rooted to the spot.
City were struggling to create any opportunities of note and as the game entered the 20th minute had yet to fashion any kind of an attempt on the visitors goal. Indeed, it was the visitors who were to fashion the next opportunity. A good move down City's left saw the impressive Nguyễn Văn Toàn (9) find Lê Văn Sơn (2). His cross was intercepted by an alert Nguyễn Tăng Tiến (4) before the awaiting Dos Santos could strike. The resultant corner saw Lê Văn Sơn (2) firing over the City bar from distance.
It wasn't until the 23rd minute that City were to fashion even a sniff of a chance. A long cross from Huỳnh Văn Thanh (86) failing to meet the outstretched foot of a willing Lê Hoàng Thiên (19).
City were continuing to struggle to create any openings. 28 minutes in Phi Sơn (10) did open up the HAGL defence. His ball into the box however found space rather than a City teammate. Much to the frustration of the little maestro. The lack of a genuine goalscorer was beginning to show.
With a third of the game gone, City had there first attempt on goal via the boot of Ngô Hoàng Thịnh (9). Unfortunately his effort was blocked for a corner and failed to test Lê Văn Trường (68) in the visitor's goal.
Any real opportunities were still coming the way of the visitors who needed the points to secure safety in the league. A cross from Văn Toàn (9) was met by the head of Minh Vương (8) who could only direct his effort over the City bar.
City's first meaningful attempt came in the 36th minute via the boot of Phi Sơn (10). He was able to beat Kim Bongjin (90) to the ball only to see his effort curl past the far post rather than inside it.
Five minutes before the break and it was the visitors who again created an opportunity with Trương Trọng Sáng (15) firing over following a HAGL corner.
Half Time Ho Chi Minh City 0-0 Hoàng Anh Gia Lai
Coach Chung Hae-soung made his first change during the break bringing on Vũ Anh Tuấn (81) for Đỗ Văn Thuận (14).
On 49 minutes Tùng Quốc (2) had a great opportunity to pick out a City man as he burst into the box. Unfortunately, as per the first half, the pass was into space rather than to an awaiting City man. City were definitely lacking a natural striker.
53 minutes in and the visitors were presented with another opportunity. A lucky deflection off a City player from Văn Toàn's (9) intended pass saw the ball fall kindly to the feet of Dos Santos. His effort was brilliantly saved by Thanh Diệp (25) in the City goal.
This seemed to spark City back into life. A quick break saw Công Hiển (28) try his luck from distance. However, with both Phi Sơn (10) and Hoàng Thiên (19) in space inside the HAGL box, his effort sailed high over the bar.
Văn Trường (68) was finally called into action in the HAGL goal on 68 minutes. A fine move between Phi Sơn (10) and Văn Thanh (86) saw the latter find Hoàng Thiên (19). He was able to create space with his effort being tipped over the bar by an alert Văn Trường.
On the hour mark and the visitors were given the opportunity to open the scoring. Nguyễn Phong Hồng Duy (7) was able to play in Vũ Văn Thanh (17) whose run was unceremoniously ended by Nguyễn Hữu Tuấn (15). The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot for a penalty which Hồng Duy (7) duly converted sending Thanh Diệp the wrong way. Coach Chung chose this moment to make his second change bringing on Quế Ngọc Mạnh (6) for Nguyễn Công Thành (71). HCMC FC 0-1 HAGL
One could have become two moments later. A flowing HAGL move resulted in Dos Santos breaking. His pass to Văn Thanh (17) forced the HAGL man wide allowing Tùng Quốc (2) the opportunity to clear the danger.
City were beginning to string a few passes together as they strove to get back into the game. With just over 15 minutes remaining a cross by Văn Thanh (86) on City's right found Công Hiển (28) in the HAGL box. Although he was able to bring the ball under control his shot was cleared to safety.
Seconds later and the home crowd had the goal that they were craving for and like the visitors, it came via the penalty spot. Hoàng Thiên (19) found Hoàng Thịnh (9) and although his effort was saved by Văn Trường (68) the ball fell into the path of Phi Sơn (10) who was upended by Hồng Duy (7) before he could tuck the ball home. Again, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot for a City penalty. Phi Sơn (10) made absolutely no mistake from the spot bringing the scores level. HCMC FC 1-1 HAGL
Phi Sơn brings the scores level
It was City who were now looking the likeliest to go on and take all three points. On 79 minutes a dominant Phi Sơn played in Tùng Quốc (2). His low cross going through the keepers legs, whistled across the box avoiding any incoming City players trying to get that final touch.
\Coach Chung Hae-soung made his final change of the night as the game entered the final 10 minutes bringing on Võ Út Cường (56) for Huỳnh Văn Thanh (86).\
With the game seemingly heading for a stalemate, the visitors were given the perfect opportunity to snatch all three points. Văn Toàn (9) received the ball and as he broke into the City box received the slightest of touches from Hữu Tuấn (15) and had no hesitation in going to ground. The referee pointing to the spot for a third time, two of which had been conceded by the unlucky Hữu Tuấn. Văn Thanh (17) stepped up and although Thanh Diệp (25) guessed the right way and was able to get a hand onto the ball, he was unable to prevent it from entering the City goal. HCMC FC 1-2 HAGL
City were unable to force their way back into the game with the visitors being guilty of wasting some last minute opportunities to make the game safe.
Full Time Ho Chi Minh City 1-2 Hoàng Anh Gia Lai
A night of celebration might have ended in defeat but this team can be justifiably proud of their achievements during the 2019 season.
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