Saturday night’s V.League 1 action saw a titanic clash between two of Vietnam’s biggest cities, with capital side Hanoi FC taking on Southern rivals Ho Chi Minh City FC at the Hang Day Stadium. Ho Chi Minh City have yet to win any of their last 6 encounters with their Northern counterparts and Saturday night’s Round 14 clash saw that wretched run being extended to 7, with Ho Chi Minh City succumbing to a 2-0 defeat in their first championship group match. Despite holding Hanoi to a goalless draw in the first half, Ho Chi Minh City were undone by a controversial penalty in the second half, before a late goal killed off any chances of Ho Chi Minh City salvaging something from the game.
Jung Hae-seong’s Ho Chi Minh City travel to Hanoi with vengeance in mind. The Red Battleship had locked horns with Hanoi four times already throughout 2020 and all of them ended in victories for the men in purple from the capital. Ho Chi Minh City were beaten 2-1 at their Thong Nhat Stadium in the 2020 Vietnamese Super Cup having taken the lead initially, before the first league encounter between the two at the same venue ended in a comprehensive 3-0 Hanoi victory. Rubbing further salt to Ho Chi Minh City’s wounds, the third encounter between them and Hanoi ended in a 5-1 humiliation at the Hang Day in the 2020 Vietnamese National Cup semifinal, a tournament that Hanoi eventually won.
Having spent big in the pre-season to match Hanoi’s star-studded squad, losing all three encounters with them so far certainly gave the Red Battleship a huge conundrum to solve if they wish to challenge the capital side for domestic glory. With this in mind, Jung took a different approach for Saturday’s clash – with Nguyen Cong Phuong unavailable due to a toe injury, Jung decided to deploy a more defensive-minded formation, with a back-five consisting of Pape Diakite, Tran Dinh Khuong, Ngo Hoang Tinh, Le Van Son and Sam Ngoc Duc.
With Hanoi missing the suspended Rimario Gordon on Saturday, the capital side were made frustrated for a good chunk of the match by Jung’s defensive approach. The likes of Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Van Quyet, Do Hung Dung, and Nguyen Thanh Chung were unable to penetrate Ho Chi Minh City’s watertight defense, and it took a moment of controversy in the 69th minute for Chu Dinh Nghiem’s men to draw first blood.
Quang Hai was rushing into the Ho Chi Minh City defense with Diakite hot on his heels when the Vietnam international stepped on the edge of the ball with his boot, causing him to lose balance and fall inside Ho Chi Minh City’s penalty box. Much to the away side’s dismay, referee Nguyen Manh Hai pointed to the spot – in his eyes, Diakite had fouled Quang Hai within the area. The Ho Chi Minh City players protested Manh Hai’s decision, but the referee did not budge and he promptly awarded Hanoi the spot kick. Captain Van Quyet made no mistake from the spot despite Nguyen Thanh Thang going into the right direction. 1-0 Hanoi and the Ho Chi Minh City camp would surely felt hard done-by the way Hanoi won their penalty.
Being a goal down forced Ho Chi Minh City to commit men forward in search for that all-important equalizer, with Do Van Thuan, Tran Phi Son, and Ariel Rodriguez making forays into the Hanoi defense. However, this left Ho Chi Minh City vulnerable for an 85th minute sucker punch, with Quang Hai working together excellently with Hung Dung to penetrate the Ho Chi Minh City defense.
Bringing the ball from the midfield, Quang Hai passed to Hung Dung, who went down the left flank as Quang Hai positioned himself near the Ho Chi Minh City penalty box. Hung Dung passed to Quang Hai as he entered the area, with the 23-year old shrugging off a challenge from Ngo Hoang Thinh before firing a powerful diagonal shot that went past Thanh Thang. 2-0 Hanoi and the capital side sat on their lead for the remainder of the match before Manh Hai’s final whistle confirmed Hanoi’s fourth win in four matches over Ho Chi Minh City.
Elsewhere in the championship group, Than Quang Ninh managed to win their Round 14 match, a comprehensive 3-0 beatdown of Becamex Binh Duong at the Cam Pha Stadium. Goals from Claudecir, Giang Tran Quach Tan, and Jeremie Lynch ensured a comfortable win for Phan Thanh Hung’s Hero Miner, who anchored themselves to 3rd place with the result. Hanoi’s win over Ho Chi Minh City placed them on 4th place, with their opponents stranded on 5th. Binh Duong, on the other hand, are just behind the Red Battleship on 6th.
Saturday night’s V.League action also saw the start of the relegation group matches, with SHB Da Nang eking out a 1-0 win over Hai Phong FC at the Hoa Xuan Stadium and 10-men Thanh Hoa FC managing to force Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh to a 1-1 draw at the Thanh Hoa Stadium thanks to a late equalizer from Louis Ewonde. The last relegation group match of Round 14 sees Song Lam Nghe An hosting basement dwellers Quang Nam FC at the Vinh Stadium on Sunday.