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First half goals from new signings Amido Baldé (11 minutes) and Công Phượng (40 minutes) were enough to secure City their first ever AFC Cup Point in their opening Group F match away to Myanmar's Yangon United.

Originally scheduled to be played at the SVĐ Thống Nhất,  Corona Virus health concerns saw fixtures between City and Yangon Utd reversed meaning that it was to Myanmar that City travelled to open their maiden AFC Cup account.

Coach Chung Hae-soung deciding to take a squad of 18 players to Myanmar meaning that their was no place on the plane for striker Matias who remained in Ho Chi Minh.  Injuries to Captain Văn Thuận, midfielder Thanh Bình and striker Victor Prodell meant that they also remained back in HCM.   The absence of Matias ignited the social media rumour mill with everything from Visa refusal to serious injury being touted.  The truth of the matter is that it was a squad/tactical decision although comments made in the press by Chairman Nguyen Huu Thang has suggested that the striker could have played his final game for City due to foreigner/Asian player quotas. 

City's squad who travelled to Yangon included : Goalkeepers : Thanh Thắng, Tiến Dũng. Defenders : Hữu Tuấn, Diakité, Ngọc Thịnh, Viết Phú, Đức Lương, Văn Sơn, Ngọc Đức, Tùng Quốc. Midfielders : Anh Tuấn, Hoàng Thịnh, Công Hiển, Huy Toàn, Phi Sơn; Attackers : Xuân Nam, Amido Baldé and Công Phượng.

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Coach Chung Hae-soung opted for a 4-4-1-1 (or 4-5-1) formation with the following players starting the game :

 

Goalkeeper : 1. Thanh Thắng

Defenders : 2. Tùng Quốc, 12. Đức Lương, 20. Ngọc Thịnh, 44. Papé Diakité

Midfielders : 9. Hoàng Thịnh, 10. Phi Sơn (Captain), 28. Công Hiển, 81. Anh Tuấn

Attacking Midfielder Công Phượng (21) essentially playing behind lone Striker Amido Baldé (99)

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City's starting XI Photo 

City were aiming to impress in their debut appearance in the competition and were to dominate the early proceedings at the 32,000 capacity Thuwunna Stadium.  Yangon United, who in previous games were to set the pace found City a harder nut to crack and after a frenetic opening 10 minutes, in which City striker Amido Baldé (99) had already spurned a one on one position, it was the visitors who were to open the scoring in the 11th minute when an unmarked Amido Balde redeemed himself and by climbing high and heading Tùng Quốc's pin-point cross from the right past Yangon United's keeper Kyaw Zin Htet.  Yangon United 0-1 HCMC FC

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City's joy was to be short lived as Yangon United, who were Zonal Semi-finalists in 2018, bounced back just four minutes later when Emmanuel Uzochukwu rose highest to head home Maung Maung Lwin’s corner-kick from eight yards out.   Yangon United 1-1 HCMC FC

Despite the heat, the pace showed no sign of letting up as both teams seem to decide that attack was the best policy.  

With less that 20 minutes on the clock, and in what was proving to be a frenetic start to the contest, it was the hosts Yangon United who took the lead in the 19th minute when Maung Maung Win received a layoff from Maung Maung Lwin on the edge of the box.  He proceeded to smash a powerful effort into the back of the net, passing a leaping Thanh Thắng in the City goal who was completely outdone by the swerving ball.   Yangon United 2-1 HCMC FC

Despite the obvious set back, City refused to buckle and continued to cause the hosts problems.  Phi Sơn (10) in particular was having an excellent game in midfield, controlling play and pulling the Yangon midfield all over the park.  In defence, City new boys Đức Lương (12) and Papé Diakité (44) were once again having steady games with both showing their potential value to what, hopefully at least, will be a busy season.  

City's first half was to be further dented when scorer Amido Baldé, who had earlier seemed to over stretch for a pass, had to be replaced on 38 minutes by Xuân Nam (11) who was to make his City debut after his close season switch from Phố Hiến.  Moments later and Công Phượng (21) had a half chance presented to him via a Phi Sơn cross.

Five minutes before the break it was all square and Công Phượng had his goal, which at the same time, hopefully laid to rest the ghost of previous years.  City, working the ball left to the diminutive but effervescent Công Hiển (28) who was able to dink a clever ball towards the host's six-yard box, finding a waiting Công Phượng whose glancing header left Kyaw Zin Htet helpless in the Yangon goal.   Yangon United 2-2 HCMC FC

City striker Amido Baldé opens the scoring for City

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City attacking midfielder Công Phượng brings City level

Neither team were able to add to the goals tally as the first half drew to a close with City being the happier of the two as the half time whistle blew.  

Half Time : Yangon United FC 2-2 Ho Chi Minh City FC

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The second half started by following the familiar pattern of previous Yangon home games with the host's seeking to over power their opponents.  However, City are a different proposition to opponents in the Myanmar Premier League and where able to repel most attacks with relative ease.  As an attacking force, City appeared to go into their shell with tiredness a real possibility considering the heat, the intensity of the first half and Yangon's greater competitive match fitness.  

It was however the visitors who fashioned the second half's first opportunity.  On 57 minutes, following a corner from City's left taken by Công Phượng, who had grown as the first half wore on, Papé Diakité (44) was able to find space at the far post.  Unfortunately his header finding the side netting.   Just after the hour mark and the hosts really should have regained the lead they so craved.  Maung Maung Lwin (11) and Ernest Barfo (44) linked up nicely with Barfo setting up Zin Min Tun with a fine cross into the box.  Fortunately for City, the substitute failed to get his volley on target blasting high and wide from 4 yards.

Coach Chung Hae-soung made his second switch of the game moments later by bringing on Hữu Tuấn (15) for Ngọc Thịnh (20).  City almost reverting to a back three with two wing backs.

 

Phi Sơn, who had been so effective in the first half, seemed to drop deeper and deeper becoming less effective with the hosts reverting to a more man marking system.  City still huffed and puffed without much reward and despite their best endevours, it was the hosts who were to create the games next big opportunity.  On 77 minutes, Emmanuel (88) who had earlier drew the hosts level, blasted wide of the City goal whilst in a great position.  

Two minutes later and Coach Chung Hae-soung made his final change of the night.  Ngọc Đức (7) replacing Đức Lương (12) who continues to impress in the red of City.

The chances continued to flow freely but the finishing touch that had been so prevalent earlier on seemed to desert either team as tiredness took over.

As the clock started to wind down we now entered what last season had become 'City Time'.  The final few minutes saw City take the game to their hosts.  Công Phượng saw a free kick dealt with by the host's defence before Xuân Nam (11) completely missed his header on 88 minutes from an in-swinging Phi Sơn corner.

Final Score : Yangon United FC 2-2 Ho Chi Minh City FC

Both teams had to settle for a point but it will be City who departed the happier of the two after securing their first ever point in the AFC Cup.  Next up for Yangon United will be another home game as they host Lao Toyota FC on February 25, while City travel to Singapore to face Hougang United FC who defeated Lao Toyota 3-1 on match day one.

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YANGON UNITED: 1. Kyaw Zin Htet, 17. Zar Ni Htet, 30. Thu Rein Soe, 32. Ernest Aboubacar, 5. Thein Than Win (Min Kyaw Khant 90+3’), 30. Kaung Htet Soe (Zin Min Tun 62’), 40. Shori Murata, 6. Maung Maung Win, 11. Maung Maung Lwin, 88. Emmanuel Uzochukwu, 44. Ernest Barfo (Than Paing 78’).

HO CHI MINH CITY: 1. Thanh Thắng, 2. Tùng Quốc, 12. Đức Lương (7. Ngọc Đức 80’), 20. Ngọc Thịnh (15. Hữu Tuấn 67’), 44. Papé Diakité, 9. Hoàng Thịnh, 10. Phi Sơn (Captain), 28. Công Hiển, 81. Anh Tuấn, 99. Amido Baldé (11. Xuân Nam 41’), 21. Công Phượng.

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©2018 by Darren Smale