Viettel FC grabbed the opportunity presented to them by an earlier slip-up by Sai Gon FC with both hands and managed to successfully perform a takeover of the V.League 1 summit on Wednesday night. Truong Viet Hoang’s Viettel managed to go top of the league after they had beaten Ho Chi Minh City FC 1-0 at the Thong Nhat Stadium in their second championship group match. The Red Tornado managed to capsize the Red Battleship in their Round 15 encounter thanks to a first half penalty by Bruno Cantanhede and a heroic save by Tran Nguyen Manh in the dying minutes of the match that denied Ho Chi Minh City their equalizer.
Having suffered two consecutive defeats in the league, Jung Hae-seong’s Ho Chi Minh City were looking to see off the challenge of 2nd placed Viettel, who were in high spirits after they had battered Hoang Anh Gia Lai 4-1 in their first championship group match last Friday. Ho Chi Minh City had demolished Viettel 3-0 in the first half of the season, however for this encounter the Red Battleship were missing a number of key players. Both Ngo Hoang Tinh and Pape Diakite are suspended, while Seo Yong-duk, Ngo Tung Quoc, Vo Huy Toan, and Nguyen Cong Phuong are out injured. Nguyen Huu Tuan was disciplined by the club, so he also sits this encounter out as well. Jung started both Ariel Rodriguez and Jose Guillermo Ortiz in his lineup, while Nguyen Xuan Nam is named on the bench, ready to act as a supersub once again.
With Ho Chi Minh City in desperate need for three points to keep their faint title challenge alive, Jung’s men were instead stunned in the 34th minute. Defender Nguyen Cong Thanh fouled Viettel midfielder Nguyen Trong Hoang within the box, prompting the referee to award Viettel a penalty. Brazilian striker Bruno was tasked with dispatching the penalty and the former Daejeon Citizen player did his assignment admirably, slamming home a shot that went past Nguyen Thanh Thang.
The absence of a number of key players affected Ho Chi Minh City quite significantly throughout the match and the Red Battleship were dealt another injury blow in the 53rd minute. New signing Lam Ti Phong broke his arm and had to be taken to the hospital, with the former Sanna Khanh Hoa BVN player adding himself into the Ho Chi Minh City absentee list.
Both Rodriguez and Ortiz were not playing their best of games on Wednesday night and they were replaced by Vu Quang Nam and Tran Phi Son respectively in the second half. However, Ho Chi Minh City’s subs were not performing at the top of their game as well, with Viettel’s equally quiet performance preventing the Red Battleship from shipping even more goals.
In the 89th minute, Ho Chi Minh City finally found a breakthrough that they could utilize to salvage something out of this match, after the referee had awarded the Red Battleship a penalty of their own following Bui Tien Dung’s foul on Quang Nam. Substitute Tran Thanh Binh stepped up to the plate and took the penalty…only for Nguyen Manh to preserve Viettel’s lead with an excellent save.
Viettel did finish the match with 10 men after Ho Khac Ngoc was given two successive yellow cards in the buildup towards Ho Chi Minh City’s penalty, but it mattered little as the Red Tornado managed to retain their slender lead throughout a very tense last few minutes of the match, finishing the match as 1-0 victors.
And Viettel’s scrappy win turned out to be an important one, as it not only ended Ho Chi Minh City’s dwindling title aspirations, but it also brought the Red Tornado to the top of the V.League 1 – thanks to a slip-up done by outgoing league leaders Sai Gon in the earlier kick-off. Vu Tien Thanh’s men in pink found themselves succumbing to their second defeat of the season away at Becamex Binh Duong, with goals from Tong Anh Ly, Nguyen Tran Viet Cuong, and Nguyen Tien Linh condemning Sai Gon to a 3-1 defeat at the Go Dau Stadium.
With only five more rounds until the end of the season, Viettel will host Binh Duong at the Hang Day Stadium on October 19th as they gun for league title number six, while Ho Chi Minh City will take on Sai Gon at the Thong Nhat on the same day in the newest edition of the Ho Chi Minh Derby.
Round 15 continues on Thursday with two championship group matches – Hong Linh Ha Tinh hosting Than Quang Ninh at the Ha Tinh Stadium and HAGL locking horns with Hanoi FC at the Pleiku Stadium – and two relegation group matches, with Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh taking on SHB Da Nang at the Thien Truong Stadium and Thanh Hoa FC clashing with Quang Nam FC at the Thanh Hoa Stadium.