A second half wonder goal from Lê Hoàng Thiên was not enough to help City secure the three points needed to keep the championship race going into another week as City were held 1-1 by a Nam Định side roared on by a large and vociferous home crowd.
City went into the game knowing that realistically only a victory, coupled with a Hà Nội defeat at home to Viettel later today in the Hà Nội Derby, would suffice if they were to take the title race into another week in what has already been the most successful V-League 1 campaign for City since returning to the top table in 2016.
Coach Chung Hae-suong made four changes from the team that had beaten Song Lam Nghe An in the previous round of fixtures. Into the Starting XI came Ngô Tùng Quốc (2), Ngô Hoàng Thịnh (9), Đỗ Văn Thuận (14) and Christian (88). Vũ Anh Tuấn (81) dropped to the bench whilst the trio of Trần Thanh Bình (8), Vũ Quang Nam (18) and Vũ Ngọc Thịnh (20) remained in HCM.
Following the events the previous Wednesday night in Hà Nội there was heightened security at the SVĐ Thiên Trường with over 350 police on hand. A record number for the stadium. The crowd however were in boisterous mood as the teams appeared from the tunnel.
City quickly settled into the game using the pace of Công Hiển (28) to unsettle the host's defensive line. However, it was to be the home side who were to create the game's first moment of excitement in the 2nd minute. A cross from City's left by the pacy Mạnh Hùng (10) was destined for the feet of Pereira (11) who was denied by a timely intervention by Ngọc Đức (7) who has had an impressive season under the guidance of Coach Chung Hae-soung.
Three minutes later and City fashioned their first opportunity and it was the pacy Công Hiển (28) who was at the heart of the move. His pace and cross caused panic in the Nam Định defence. The half clearance falling to Công Thành (71) whose header back into the box found Hoàng Thịnh (9). Unfortunately he was unable to get a shot away.
The hosts nearly made the breakthrough on 11 minutes. A lofted cross into the City box was missed by Công Thành (71) allowing Pereira (11) the opportunity to flash the ball across the City 6 yard area. Luckily for City a sliding in Gustavo (96) was unable to make contact and the chance went begging.
A couple of minutes later and it was City's turn to attack. A throw in on City's right was headed on by Ismaheel (24). Ex-City keeper Xuân Việt fumbled the ball which fell invitingly for Ismaheel. Unfortunately he was unable to hit the target firing wide of the Nam Định goal.
Three minutes later and Ismaheel was again presented with a half chance. After good interplay with fellow striking partner Mansaray (80), Ismaheel found himself bearing down on the Nam Định goal. Keeper Xuân Việt was quickly off his line and ushered the ball out for a City corner taken by Công Thành (71). Ismaheel was able to meet the flighted corner but could only direct his header toward the host's stopper.
Both teams were struggling to fashion any clear cut chances as the game entered it's second quarter. However, 25 minutes in and the hosts thought that they had a penalty claim. With Gustavo laying flat on the ground following a collision with Christian (88), the referee allowed play to continue despite the obvious head injury. Xuân Quyết's (77) attempted cross was blocked by City's No. 2 Tùng Quốc. The crowd immediately screamed for a penalty but all appeals were waved away by the referee.
With 33 minutes on the clock City almost created a chance of their own. A throw in on City's left was headed on by Ismaheel, striking partner Mansaray (80) failing to make contact despite stretching every sinew in his leg.
Nam Định: 56. Xuân Việt, 20. Tony, 18. Văn Phú, 38. Quốc Hường, 99. Văn Trường, 29. Hạ Long, 8. Sỹ Minh, 10. Mạnh Hùng, 77. Xuân Quyết, 11. Pereira, 96. Gustavo
HCMC FC: 1. Thanh Thắng, 88. Epassi, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 2. Tùng Quốc, 7. Ngọc Đức, 9. Hoàng Thịnh, 14. Văn Thuận, 28. Công Hiển, 71. Công Thành, 24. Akinade, 80. Mansaray (99. Văn Thành, 46’)