Football made its return to Vietnam after a period of suspension since late July due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the third round of the Vietnamese National Cup on Friday night. V.League 1 heavyweights Ho Chi Minh City FC and Hanoi FC were through to the semifinal after eliminating V.League 2 opposition, with Ho Chi Minh City mounting a spirited comeback to end giant-killers Ba Ria-Vung Tau’s cup run, while defending cup champions Hanoi demolished XSKT Can Tho 7-0 at the Hang Day Stadium.
Playing at the Ba Ria Stadium in front of a limited amount of spectators, BRVT were determined to continue their cup run by claiming their third V.League 1 scalp, having eliminated both Sai Gon FC and Song Lam Nghe An in the previous rounds. And it looked like the minnows were about to pull off their biggest giant-killing feat yet – a 2nd minute goal from Nguyen Ngoc Hung and a 11th minute strike from Bui Van Duc had given the Southern Vietnam side a 2-0 lead over their close neighbors, who turned out a lackluster performance in the first half.
Cup regulations have stated that V.League 1 teams are not allowed to play their foreigners in matches involving lower league teams, meaning that Ho Chi Minh City were unable to give debuts to their brand new ammunitions from Costa Rica – former Bangkok Glass (now BG Pathum United) and PTT Rayong man Ariel Rodriguez and former Alajuelense and DC United man Jose Guillermo Ortiz. However, despite being deprived of their services, Ho Chi Minh City head coach Jung Hae-seong had two aces up his sleeve – Nguyen Cong Phuong and Vo Huy Toan.
With Ho Chi Minh City trailing 2-0 at half-time, Jung made the fateful decision of introducing both Cong Phuong and Huy Toan into the fray. The presence of the two players sparked life into Ho Chi Minh City, and on the 61st minute Jung’s decision was repaid excellently. Huy Toan floated down from the left wing and crossed the ball towards Cong Phuong, who headed home easily to slash the deficit in half.
The dynamics were then reversed in the 80th minute, with the BRVT goalkeeper punching the ball towards Cong Phuong. The former Incheon United and Sint-Truiden loanee zig-zagged his way through the crowded BRVT defense, before he sent the ball towards the heart of the BRVT penalty box. The BRVT defenders could not clear the ball far enough and it was well-received by Huy Toan, who rifled in a shot through the skirmish to equalize the game for Ho Chi Minh City.
With time running out and the scores tied at 2-2, it seems that a penalty shootout was required to decide who will get that coveted ticket to the semifinal. As the match entered the first minute of injury time, Cong Phuong was fouled outside the box by a BRVT player, prompting the referee to award Ho Chi Minh City a free-kick. Huy Toan decided to go direct, firing his free-kick towards the BRVT keeper who immediately parried the ball away. However, Do Van Thuan was in the right place and the right time to smash in the rebound, completing a remarkable Ho Chi Minh City comeback and ensuring that BRVT’s giant-killing exploits would end in sheer heartbreak.
The 3-2 win enabled Ho Chi Minh City to advance to the Vietnamese National Cup semifinal, where a titanic clash with Hanoi would await Jung’s men. Hanoi easily booked their place in the semifinal after destroying Can Tho 7-0 at an empty Hang Day Stadium. Braces from Nguyen Van Quyet and Nguyen Quang Hai, coupled with goals from Nguyen Thanh Chung, Do Hung Dung, and Ho Minh Di, ensured an easy passage to the semifinal for Chu Dinh Nghiem’s men, who were simply too powerful for V.League 2 basement dwellers Can Tho.
Hanoi would host Ho Chi Minh City at the Hang Day in the semifinal, with the match to be played on September 16th.
Saturday’s third round action would see the last two semifinal spots being decided, with Hong Linh Ha Tinh taking on Than Quang Ninh at the Ha Tinh Stadium and Viettel FC facing off against Becamex Binh Duong at the Hang Day.