On a night when three City players were called into the Vietnam National Team Squad, the team secured Second Place in the League Table with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over city rivals Sài Gòn FC at the SVĐ Thống Nhất.
With the Championship race already over following Hà Nội's 1-0 away victory at Sông Lam Nghệ An the previous evening, tonight was all about City securing the point necessary to secure second place. The visitors meanwhile were looking for a final push to their season in an attempt to finish third in the table.
City were forced into making changes from the previous game away to Nam Định due to injuries sustained. Into City's starting XI came Hoàng Thiên (19) replacing the injured Mansaray, Tăng Tiến (4) replacing Hoàng Thịnh (9). A welcome sight on the City bench was that of midfielder Trần Phi Sơn (10) who had yet to make an appearance this season due to a long term injury.
The opening period of the game did not resemble that of a City Derby with very little action to speak of. Indeed, during the opening 20 minutes of the game there were no meaningful attempts on either goal. The closest to an attempt was Công Thành's (71) headed clearance in the 15th minute that looped narrowly over his own crossbar for a Sài Gòn corner.
In the 20th minute, a City cross was flicked on by the visitors Trung Hiếu (24) and was narrowly missed by a diving Tăng Tiến (4) at the far post.
City had a great chance to take the lead on 34 minutes. A cross by the impressive Hoàng Thiên (19) found striking partner Ismaheel with plenty of space in the centre of the Sài Gòn box. Unfortunately, the tall striker was unable to direct his header goalwards and the opportunity went begging.
Two minutes later though and it was one-nil to City. Picking up a pass from Hữu Tuấn (15), Hoàng Thiên was allowed to turn and from 25 yards struck a sweet left footed drive which Văn Phong (36) completely missed in the visitor's goal. HCMC FC 1-0 Sài Gòn FC
With five minutes remaining of the first half, City almost had the opportunity to double their advantage. A throw in taken by Văn Thuận (14) was flicked on at the near post by Ismaheel. His flick on was partially cleared falling to Tùng Quốc (2) at the edge of the box. His attempted drive going wide of the goal avoiding the outstretched leg of fellow defender Tăng Tiến (4) attempting to direct the ball home.
Half Time : Ho Chi Minh City FC 1-0 Sài Gòn FC
The visitors came out of the traps in the second half and almost immediately snatched an equaliser which looked unlikely during the first period. A cross from the visitor's Quốc Phương (19) was met by Pedro Paulo (12) with his effort being saved comfortably by an alert Thanh Thắng who had up to them largely been a spectator in the City goal.
Moments later and the visitors were reduced to ten men. Bá Dương (31) who had earlier been booked for a rash challange on City's Hữu Tuấn (15) slid in on Văn Thuận (14). And although the free kick could have gone either way the referee deemed the Sài Gòn man to be the aggressor and after receiving his second yellow of the night duly received the red card.
As is very often the case in games of 11 vs 10 it was the ten men of Sài Gòn who struck next in the 62nd minute. Pedro Paulo burst through the City defence and fired home past a diving Thanh Thắng to bring the visitors level on the night. HCMC FC 1-1 Sài Gòn FC
Less than 90 seconds later and City were back in front. A free kick 30 yards out was cleanly struck by Văn Thuận (14) with the ball flying past Văn Phong in the Sài Gòn goal to restore City's advantage. HCMC FC 2-1 Sài Gòn FC
Minutes later and a sight that many City fans thought would not happen this season, Phi Sơn (10) entered the action for his first appearance of the 2019 season replacing an impressive Ngọc Đức (7). Immediately he was in the action tormenting the visitor's defence.
On 78 minutes and it was 3-1 City. A low cross from Tùng Quốc (2) was met by Ismaheel (24) and this time there was no mistake as his left footed effort saw the ball settle in the back of the visitor's goal. HCMC FC 3-1 Sài Gòn FC
With nine minutes to go it was almost four. Phi Sơn fed Ismaheel whose cross was met by a rushing Hoàng Thiên. Unfortunately he was unable to direct the effort on goal and City remained 3-1 to the good.
Any efforts from Sài Gòn were restricted to long range efforts. With five minutes left Tín Thân (26) who had earlier replaced Quốc Phương (19) saw his effort brilliantly saved by City's goal stopper Thanh Thắng.
On 86 minutes the fairy tale ending for both Phi Sơn and fans alike was almost complete. The little midfielder bursting past the Sài Gòn midfield before unleashing a ferocious effort that flew narrowly past the visitor's goal.
With the clock running down City did get their forth goal of the night. Phi Sơn (10) fed Tùng Quốc (2) whose cross found Hoàng Thiên (19). The striker was able to lift the ball over the visitor's keeper and into the net for his second goal of the game. HCMC FC 4-1 Sài Gòn FC
There was still time for Gustavo (95) to attempt to pull a goal back for Sài Gòn but his effort was well saved by Thanh Thắng.
There were to be no more efforts and City had secured the points necessary to ensure that they had achieved Second Place in this season's Wake-Up 247 V-League 1 campaign.
Full Time : Ho Chi Minh City FC 4-1 Sài Gòn FC
HCMC FC: 1. Thanh Thắng, 2. Tùng Quốc, 4. Tăng Tiến (20. Ngọc Thịnh, 85’), 7. Ngọc Đức (10. Phi Sơn, 67’), 14. Văn Thuận, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 19. Hoàng Thiên, 24. Ismaheel, 28. Công Hiển, 71. Công Thành, 88. Christian.
Sài Gòn FC : 36. Văn Phong, 8. Vũ Tín, 12. Pedro Paulo (7. Ngọc Duy, 68’), 15. Đức Lợi, 19. Quốc Phương (26. Tín Thân, 63’), 22. Quốc Long, 27. Hữu Sơn (23. Văn Triền, 84’), 31. Bá Dương, 39. Trung Hiếu, 94. Silveira, 95. Gustavo.
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Match Photos - Courtesy of CLB BÓNG ĐÁ TP.HCM Offical Facebook page