Two first half goals at a packed SVĐ Thống Nhất saw City increase the gap over rivals Hà Nội to 5 points at the top of V-League 1 in Week 11 of the 2019 season.
City's amazing start to the 2019 Wake-Up 247 V-League 1 season continued with an excellent 2-1 win at a packed Thống Nhất on Saturday night. The afternoon thunderstorm threatened to dampen the atmosphere but as the clouds cleared so the excitement rose. Although the official attendance has been given as 11,000 there seemed to be a lot more. As expected, there was a big turn out of Sông Lam Nghệ An fans who have made the great city of Hồ Chí Minh their home.
Once again Coach Chung Hae Seong was forced to make changes to the previous starting X1. In came Ngô Tùng Quốc (2), Nguyễn Minh Trung (17) and Phạm Công Hiển (28). Those missing out were Sầm Ngọc Đức (7) Phạm Văn Thành (99) and Matias (11). It was later reported that Matias had been playing with a fracture and will definitely miss the trip to SHB Đà Nẵng this coming Thursday.
Unlike previous games and perhaps due to the wet playing surface, the game started at a tremendous pace with both teams seemingly going for the kill from the off and in the first minute the visitors thought that they had taken the lead. A cross from Xuân Thắng (17) caused danger in the City box and was inadvertently turned into his own goal by City's Hữu Tuấn (14). However, the referee had spotted the push by Nghệ An's Tuấn Tài (10) and the goal was correctly ruled out.
City were starting to get more of a foothold in the game and beginning to play their preferred passing game. For their part, Nghệ An were relying on quick counter attacking football hoping to exploit any gaps at the back. The visitors were continuing to create the best openings without really threatening the City goal. In the 7th minute a flighted freekick into the City box was met by Nghệ An's Olaha (7). His header went harmlessly wide.
City's first opening came in the 9th minute. Văn Thuận (14) found Tùng Quốc (2) on City's right. His cross found Quang Nam (18). Unfortunately he was neither unable to shoot or find another City player and the opportunity passed. Two minutes later and it was City who thought that they had gained the lead. A freekick from 30 yards out was cleanly struck by City's No 8 Thanh Bình. Unfortunately his superb effort came back off the Nghệ An upright to safety.
The game was continuing to be played at a furious pace with almost a 'you attack, we attack' attitude. Nghệ An were also adopting a more physical approach in an attempt to stifle City's pass and move style. On 14 minutes a two footed lunge by the visitor's No 11 Xuân Mạnh on Tùng Quốc was rightly punished with a yellow card.
It was City who were to draw first blood. Joel won a corner down City's left in the 19th minute. The corner was taken short by Hữu Tuấn who found Công Hiển (28). His cross was met by the head of Christian whose header found the back of the Nghệ An net giving keeper Nguyên Mạnh (1) no chance. 1-0 City.
City were beginning to flow. On 20 minutes, Joel broke down the Nghệ An right. Unluckily for City, team mate Quang Nam was unable to take the pass in his stride and the chance passed. It was then Công Thành's (71) turn to go into the referee's book. His high challenge on a somewhat lunging Xuân Mạnh left the Nghệ An player on the ground.
Twenty five minutes and it was 2-0 City. A long clearance by keeper Thanh Diệp was flicked. Under a challenge by Joel the ball seemed to hit the hand of Nghệ An's Đình Đồng (16). How much contact or intent is unknown. However, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot which Joel calmly slotted away hitting the ball high into the visitor's goal. 2-0 City.
The game was definitely becoming more open with the visitors pressing for a quick response. City for their part were trying to continue with their game plan and open up the Nghệ An defense for a game killing third goal.
In the 37th minute, a rare opportunity for City ended with a long range effort by Minh Trung (17) sailing harmlessly wide of the visitor's goal. On 39 minutes, a Nghệ An corner was met by the head of Olaha (7) but as with previous efforts, his header flew over the bar.
The hosts were enjoying more ball possession than City but were unable to find any way through the City rear guard.
As the clock started to run down, a cross into the City box was flicked on by Tuấn Tài (10). Xuân Mạnh's (11) overhead kick failed to cause Thanh Diệp any problems in the City goal.
Half Time : Ho Chi Minh City FC 2 Sông Lam Nghệ An 0
City made their first change during the half time break with Tăng Tiến (4) coming on to replace Christian who appeared to land awkwardly making a clearance at the end of the first half.
The start to the second period was a slightly frantic affair with Nghệ An adopting a more direct approach in an attempt to neutralize the City midfield. City, for their part, seemed to be falling into the same trap that so nearly cost them earlier at in the season away to B. Bình Dương. Leading that game 2-0 City stopped playing and allowed the hosts to get a foothold in the game. Leveling the game at 2-2 before Joel's very late intervention.
It was come as a bit of a surprise when the first attempt on goal in the second half came from the boot of a City player. A City corner on 51 minutes taken by Minh Trung (17) was only partially cleared and found its way back to the corner taker whose long range effort lacked the strength to beat the Nghệ An goal stopper. Nguyên Mạnh's quick clearance found his No 10 Tuấn Tài who was harshly penalised for a foul on Văn Thuận.
Two minutes later and it was 2-1 and game on. A slick Nghệ An move involving Xuân Thắng (17), Tuấn Tài (10) and Olaha (7) finally found Khắc Ngọc (12) alone in City's box. He had the presence of mind to calmly slot the ball past City's keeper Thanh Diệp who appeared to slip as he attempted to save the shot. Replays however suggested that the goalscorer was in an offside position when he received the ball. The linesman being perfectly positioned to see and then ignore the obvious. 2-1 City.
City almost had the opportunity to immediately restore the two goal advantage. Minh Trung (17) having time to find Joel who had made space inside the visitor's box. Unfortunately the pass, not for the first time this half from a City player, went astray.
Nghệ An's direct approach and the curse of Bình Dương was in danger of derailing City's evening. On 57 minutes a high looping cross into the City box found Olaha. His effort was blocked for a corner by Tăng Tiến (4).
In an attempt to shore things up, Coach Chung Hae Seong on 59 minutes introduced Văn Thành (99) for Minh Trung (17). The change seemed to temporarily disrupt the City defence and Olaha was allowed to turn and shoot. However, his effort sailed high over the City crossbar.
All too frequently City's play was breaking down in midfield. The final pass either being misplaced or intercepted. On 63 minutes City were nearly undone by a long ball. Miss-controlled by Tăng Tiến, his wild challenge on Nghệ An's Tuấn Tài going unpunished. Văn Thuận was desperately trying to organise the City midfield and calm the side down as it chased it's eighth victory of the season.
On 64 minutes City had the chance to put daylight between them and Nghệ An. A cross into the visitor's box found Joel. He found Quang Nam whose effort was blocked, the ball falling to Văn Thành (99). Unfortunately for player, club and supporters, he was unable to get a clean strike on goal and his effort was saved for a City corner.
If the visitors thought that they had a shout for a possible penalty earlier, on 69 minutes it was City's turn to wonder. Quang Nam broke into the visitor's box and was unceremoniously sent to the ground. A minute later and the final change of the night for City was made. Hoàng Thịnh (9) replacing Quang Nam.
Both teams were trying to force the issue. Nghệ An's No 7 Olaha breaking down the wing. His low cross only finding the grateful hands of Thanh Diệp. On 78 minutes, Nghệ An's No 11 Xuân Mạnh tried his luck from distance. A flying Thanh Diệp was happy to see the ball sail wide of the goal.
With the clock beginning to wind down, a slick City move involving Hoàng Thịnh (9) and Thanh Bình (8) resulted in a cross by the latter finding its way to Công Hiển (28). His effort flying wide of the mark with Joel screaming for a cross. We were now entering 'City Time'. With barely four minutes left on the clock, Tùng Quốc (2) found Công Hiển (28) who was having a much better second half. His cross eluding both Joel and Văn Thành in the box.
It was now all about game management and this City side has become masters at seeing out a game. The visitors were being reduced to hopeful long balls into the City box which were being gladly dealt with by a resolute defence.
There were to be no more chances at either end as the game came to an end. City had gained another three points and increased their lead at the top of the table to 5 points.
Full Time : Ho Chi Minh City FC 2 Sông Lam Nghệ An 1
HCMC FC : 25. Thanh Diệp, 2. Tùng Quốc, 8. Thanh Bình, 14. Văn Thuận, 15. Hữu Tuấn, 17. Minh Trung (99. Văn Thành, 59’), 18. Quang Nam (9. Hoàng Thịnh, 71’), 28. Công Hiển, 71. Công Thành, 88. Ewonde (4. Tăng Tiến, 46’), Vinicius.
SLNA : 1. Nguyên Mạnh, 4. Damir, 5. Văn Khánh, 6. Đình Hoàng, 7. Olaha, 9. Ngọc Toàn (15. Văn Bình, 85’), 10. Tuấn Tài, 11. Xuân Mạnh, 12. Khắc Ngọc (28. Quang Tình, 89’), 16. Đình Đồng (14. Thế Cường, 74’), 17. Xuân Thắng.
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