City failed to win for the first time this season as they were held to a 0-0 draw by city rivals Sài Gòn FC at the Thống Nhất Stadium.
Both teams went into this game on the back of impressive recent runs. City, surprising most followers of Vietnamese football were unbeaten in four. Indeed, they had won all four previous games including an impressive victory away in Pleiku to Hoàng Anh Gia Lai. Sài Gòn themselves had won the previous three games, including a victory of their own away to Hoàng Anh Gia Lai.
City coach Chung Hae-soung was forced to make changes to the City line-up due to No 20 Vũ Ngọc Thịnh's suspension after collecting three yellow cards and injury to No 7 Sầm Ngọc Đức. Continued injuries to No 19 Lê Hoàng Thiên, No 75 Võ Lý and No 32 Đặng Quang Huy meant that they too would miss out on the HCM Derby. There was no place for No 18 Vũ Quang Nam in the starting line up resulting in a change of formation with No 56 Võ Út Cường playing almost as a right winger and top scorer No 99 Phạm Văn Thành operating as a right wing-back. On the positive side, City were to welcome back it's Captain No 77 Huỳnh Kesley Alves for hopefully his first appearance of the season and No 88 Louis Epassi.
Inspirational midfielder No 10 Trần Phi Sơn was still unavailable due to a long term injury although his return is expected to be sooner rather than later.
It was no surprise that, as the home side, Sài Gòn FC made the faster start forcing City onto the back foot. However, it wasn't until the 14th minute of the match that the first real opportunity was created. Sài Gòn's No 19 Lê Quốc Phương found ex City forward Da Sylva (10) whose pass avoided the outstretched legs of City's returning Centre Back No 88 Louis Epassi to find striking partner Pedro Paulo (12) all alone 5 yards out. Luckily for City Paulo was to sky his effort high over the City bar.
City were struggling to get a foothold in the game and on 23 minutes Louis Epassi (88) was once again in the action as he cleared a dangerous corner from Sài Gòn's influencial No 19 Lê Quốc Phương. Unfortunately for Louis Empassi, his clearance only resulted in another corner. It was the turn of Sài Gòn's Captain Nguyễn Quốc Long (22) to try his luck from 25 yards out. His shot lacked any accuracy and flew wide of the City goal.
Nguyễn Thanh Thắng in the City goal was beginning to show his worth with another commanding performance between the sticks.
City's fans, congregated in Block C had to wait until the 42nd minute for anything even resembling a chance. Captain Vũ Anh Tuấn (81) hung a dangerous ball into the Sài Gòn area forcing Trịnh Đức Lợi (15) into a hurried clearance. With time running out at the end of the first half City were awarded a free-kick 30 yards from goal. No 99 Ngô Hoàng Thịnh's free-kick failed to hit the target.
Half Time Sài Gòn FC 0 Ho Chi Minh City FC 0
The start of the second half was a repeat of the first with Sài Gòn FC on the front foot. On 50 minutes No. 39 Trung Hiếu tried his luck. However his effort lacked the power to threaten the City goal.
City's first effort on goal in the second half came on 55 minutes and was from the boot of stand in Captain Vũ Anh Tuấn (81). Unfortunately for City his effort was saved by former Vietnamese U23 keeper Văn Hoàng (23) was awake to the danger. This seemed to spark City into life. On 58 minutes Vinicius (94) created an opportunity which again forced Sài Gòn keeper Văn Hoàng into action from his over head kick from the edge of the Sài Gòn box.
City's first change of the night came on the hour. Coach Chung Hae-soung introducing Club Captain Huỳnh Kesley (77) for his first appearance of the 2019 Season replacing Vũ Anh Tuấn. On 65 minutes, No. 71 Công Thành tested the Sài Gòn goal. His 30 yard effort was to be blocked and with the bloke, the danger to the Sài Gòn goal passed.
71 minutes and Sài Gòn FC hit back with an effort of their own. Former City striker Da Silva (10) had an effort on the City goal deflected over the bar for a Sài Gòn corner which came to nothing. Time was ebbing away and neither team looked capable of breaking the deadlock. On 75 minutes Sài Gòn's No 23 Văn Triền found team mate Pedro (12) in a dangerous position. However, his effort was saved by ultimate Man of the Match Thanh Thắng in the City goal.
Both teams were getting desperate to break the dead lock and play was becoming more frantic. On 82 minutes Sài Gòn keeper Văn Hoàng was called into action from a City corner.
With the board showing 4 extra minutes, Sài Gòn FC thought that they had stolen all three points. A neat pass by Sài Gòn's No 29 Xuân Toàn found Da Silva in the box who finished neatly. However, jubilation turned to agony as the Linesman's flag had been raised. There was just time for one more chance which fell to City's marksman of 2018 No 11 Matias. His effort lacked power and Văn Hoàng was able to gather the shot.
FULL TIME : Sài Gòn FC 0 Ho Chi Minh City FC 0
Sài Gòn FC: 25. Văn Hoàng, 4. Thiago, 10. Da Silva, 12. Pedro, 15. Đức Lợi, 19. Quốc Phương (27. Hữu Sơn, 80’), 22. Quốc Long, 23. Văn Triền, 29. Xuân Toàn, 32. Văn Ngọ, 39. Trung Hiếu (7. Ngọc Duy, 76’).
HCMC FC: 1. Thanh Thắng, 9. Hoàng Thịnh, 11. Matias Jadue, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 28. Công Hiển, 56. Út Cường (14. Văn Thuận, 62’), 71. Công Thành (86. Văn Thanh, 87’), 81. Anh Tuấn (77. Huỳnh Kesley, 62’), 88. Ewonde, 94. Vinicius, 99. Văn Thành
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