Southeast Asia Vietnam

Refereeing Controversy Mars HCMC-Hanoi Duel

Krishna Sadhana

Football Tribe SEA Editor


Three late goals sent Hanoi FC to a crushing 3-0 win over Ho Chi Minh City FC at a full-house Thong Nhat Stadium on Friday night, however it wasn’t the performance of the two teams on the pitch that made it into the spotlight for this match. Instead, it’s the controversial decisions made by referee Tran Van Trong that marred an otherwise epic battle between two of Vietnam’s finest squads in the past couple of years. Referee Van Trong denied Ho Chi Minh City two penalties while at the same time ruling out a goal by Hanoi captain Nguyen Van Quyet in the first half.

Questionable refereeing has been the topic of discussion within the V.League 1 in recent weeks, with referee Mai Xuan Hung being suspended for three games after making a number of game-changing errors that resulted in Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh losing 3-0 away at Sai Gon FC – a game that should’ve seen Nam Dinh receive three penalties. And poor decision-making from the officials reared up its ugly head once again in Friday night’s showdown.

Both teams started off the match brightly, with Ho Chi Minh City seeking to gain ground on league leaders Sai Gon and Hanoi looking to set their stuttering season straight and make a break for the top four. Seo Yong-duk tested the waters for Ho Chi Minh City in the 10th minute with a shot that was easily denied by Hanoi’s veteran goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong, while in the 15th minute, Hanoi got a chance of their own when Van Quyet fired off a shot that went above Bui Tien Dung’s goal.

Controversy made its first presence known in the 18th minute, after Nguyen Cong Phuong kicked the ball inside the penalty area, with the ball striking Nguyen Thanh Chung by the hand from close-range. Referee Van Trong signals play to continue, much to the dismay of the Ho Chi Minh City players who swarmed him immediately. The Ho Chi Minh City players felt that a penalty should be awarded to them due to the ball making contact with Thanh Chung’s hand inside the area, but Van Trong stuck to his guns and stood firm by his decision.

Shortly afterwards Amido Balde tested Tan Truong from distance, but the veteran was alert and he safely caught the ball with his hands. Hanoi took no time in responding to Balde’s chance with a chance of their own, with Nguyen Quang Hai taking a direct free-kick that was denied by Tien Dung.

Around five minutes after Quang Hai’s free-kick, controversy broke out on the pitch for the second time. Van Quyet received a slick pass from Le Tan Tai, who was making his debut for Hanoi after signing for them from Hong Linh Ha Tinh only two days prior to the match. Van Quyet made his way into the penalty area and fired off a shot that went beyond the reaches of Tien Dung, but as Van Quyet thought that he had scored, the assistant referee waved for offside and Van Trong agreed with him, effectively canceling out Van Quyet’s effort much to the dismay of the Hanoi captain.

Controversy then knocked the door for the third time in this match at the stroke of half-time, when Sam Ngoc Duc’s attempted shot struck Thanh Chung’s hand inside the penalty area. The Ho Chi Minh City players immediately asked for a penalty, but Van Trong would have none of it and waved for play to continue, much to the displeasure of the Ho Chi Minh City players.

With the first half ending in a goalless stalemate, the two teams continued their exchange of attacks in the second half. Tan Tai squandered an excellent chance for Hanoi in the 47th minute, while Ngoc Duc passed it short to Balde who skyrocketed his shot in the 50th minute. Ngo Hoang Thinh then tested Tan Truong in the 53rd minute with a long-ranged shot, only for the veteran goalie to easily deflect the incoming threat away.

Hanoi head coach Chu Dinh Nghiem decided to shake things up in the 66th minute, replacing Quang Hai with Truong Van Thai Quy. And it was a masterstroke as the 22-year old midfielder broke the deadlock for Hanoi in the 71st minute. Do Hung Dung worked the ball into the Ho Chi Minh City penalty area, where Le Van Xuan was waiting. Van Xuan had a crack but the ball was blocked by Nguyen Huu Tuan. Unfortunately the ball fell towards Thai Quy, who thumped in the opener with his head.

Five minutes later and Hanoi made it 2-0, with Thanh Chung – the player at the heart of the two Ho Chi Minh City penalty claims – doubling the away side’s lead. Thai Quy turned from scorer to provider as he passed it short towards Thanh Chung who stabbed home Hanoi’s second of the night.

Despite being two goals down, Ho Chi Minh City refused to throw the towel just yet, with Nguyen Cong Thanh coming close in halving the deficit in the 79th minute. The defender attempted a long-ranged screamer, only for a combination of Tan Truong’s reflexes and the crossbar to deny Ho Chi Minh City their goal.

In the 88th minute, Hanoi killed off the game and dashed any hopes of a Ho Chi Minh City comeback by scoring their third of the night. Hung Dung passed the ball diagonally towards Rimario Gordon and the Jamaican, who had a goal previously ruled out for offside in the 69th minute, smashed home Hanoi’s third goal. 3-0 Hanoi and that was the scoreline once Van Trong blew for full-time, with the capital side leaving Ho Chi Minh City with all three points.

After the match, both Ho Chi Minh City head coach Jung Hae-seong and the club’s higher-ups expressed disappointment at how Van Trong refereed the match. Jung, particularly, had some choice words for Friday night’s match officials, feeling that his team was hard done by the decisions made by Van Trong and his assistants.

“After the first half has ended, I reviewed the fouls done by the Hanoi players,” Jung spoke during the post-match press conference, “They were very clear but the referee did not blew his whistle. And that was their responsibility.”

Jung then continued, “However, we cannot completely blame them as referees are part of football too. We just want to say this, when we fail, we try to fix it in the next game, and the referee should improve himself for the sake of Vietnamese football.”

Last but not least, Jung had this to say about the referee, “There were around 20,000 people in attendance for today’s match. They all wanted to see a fair game. If I were the referee today…safe to say I will be ashamed of myself in front of those people.”

The Ho Chi Minh City’s higher-ups, meanwhile, took to Facebook to express their disappointment over Van Trong’s leadership. On a post uploaded to the club’s official Facebook page, the Red Battleship condemned Van Trong’s performance during the match and asked for reforms within how the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF)’s referees are doing their job. The Ho Chi Minh City’s higher-ups have talked with the VFF leadership and the VFF acknowledged the errors done by Van Trong throughout the match. The Red Battleship have also sent an official letter to the VFF asking for a better and more just refereeing in the future.

Elsewhere, Pedro Paulo scored a hat-trick at the Tam Ky Stadium for league leaders Sai Gon, however a late penalty from Dinh Thanh Trung meant that rock-bottom Quang Nam FC managed to force the unbeaten leaders to an exciting 3-3 draw. Both Hai Phong FC and Ha Tinh played out a 1-1 draw at the Lach Tray Stadium, while goals from Neven Lastro and Jeremie Lynch sent Than Quang Ninh to a 2-0 victory over Song Lam Nghe An at the Cam Pha Stadium.

With Round 11 all wrapped up, Sai Gon retained their leadership over the V.League 1, with a 4-point gap between themselves and 2nd placed Viettel FC. Quang Ninh occupy 3rd, while Hanoi have forced themselves into the top four, at the expense of Ho Chi Minh City who went down to 5th. Quang Nam remained as the league’s basement dwellers with a measly 8 points, with Hai Phong and Nam Dinh rounding off the bottom three.