Southeast Asia Vietnam

Red Battleship’s V.League 1 Future on the Balance after Hanoi Thrashing

Ho Chi Minh City FC found their place in the V.League 1 becoming more and more untenable after suffering a humiliating 6-0 defeat at the hands of league leaders Hanoi FC on Wednesday night.

Ho Chi Minh City have been a club in turmoil this season – in former Sai Gon FC head coach Vu Tien Thanh the Red Battleship are in their third head coach of the calendar year, having gone through former Ba Ria-Vung Tau FC gaffer Tran Minh Chien and former Viettel FC head coach Truong Viet Hoang. When Viet Hoang, the man who won Viettel FC the V.League 1 title back in 2020, couldn’t salvage Ho Chi Minh City out of their rut this season, you know that things are very catastrophic at the Thong Nhat Stadium.

Things were so dire to the point that club president Nguyen Huu Thang had to leave his position earlier this month. Huu Thang stepped down from his post following Viet Hoang’s resignation, the two men leaving the club after Ho Chi Minh City’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of city rivals Sai Gon in the Ho Chi Minh City Derby.

Huu Thang and Viet Hoang’s departure was only one of the numerous problems plaguing Ho Chi Minh City this season. Former head coach Minh Chien had gone to Facebook to share his experience working at Ho Chi Minh City, stating that he was unable to work properly due to many interferences done towards his squad selection and tactics, while there were also reports of Ho Chi Minh City players going on strike as a response to the club cutting down on their wages and bonuses due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even Tien Thanh’s arrival was met with divisive response. Some cite him as the right man to salvage Ho Chi Minh City due to his experience in guiding an unfancied Sai Gon side to 3rd place in the 2020 V.League 1 season, while others point out Tien Thanh’s bizarre decision to take a sledgehammer to his squad and allowing his key players to leave as a pivotal reason behind Sai Gon’s decline in recent seasons.

Nonetheless, prior to Wednesday’s match, Tien Thanh had reaped four points out of a possible six in his first two matches with Ho Chi Minh City, guiding the Red Battleship to a 2-1 win away at Hoang Anh Gia Lai before forcing Becamex Binh Duong to a 0-0 draw. With this in mind, optimism was in the air as a record crowd made themselves known at the Thong Nhat on Wednesday for Ho Chi Minh City’s match against league leaders Hanoi.

That optimism was short-lived though as Hanoi went 3-0 up in the opening eleven minutes at a rainy Thong Nhat. Lucao do Break opened the deadlock in the 7th minute, before the Capital Team went on a quickfire double salvo in the 10th and 11th minutes through Pham Tuan Hai and Nguyen Hai Long.

The league leaders then continued their rampage in the second half, with Doan Van Hau scoring three minutes after the restart before Tuan Hai completed his brace in the 50th minute and Le Xuan Tu ended the massacre in the 54th minute.

Final score reads, Ho Chi Minh City 0-6 Hanoi. It was Ho Chi Minh City’s biggest defeat this season and the fact that it happened in their own backyard adds more to the humiliation.

The heavy defeat left Ho Chi Minh City at a precarious position. Currently dead last in 13th place, the Red Battleship are two points behind 10th placed Sai Gon, with the two city rivals having played 19 matches each. The men in pink had a superior goal difference compared to their crosstown rivals, however, which, combined with Australian winger Nicholas Olsen’s superb recent form, could see Sai Gon survive the drop this season.

11th placed Nam Dinh FC are also two points ahead of Ho Chi Minh City with a superior goal difference, but most crucially the Knights of Thanh Nam had only played 18 matches and could potentially pull away from the drop as well should they win their match in hand.

Hong Linh Ha Tinh at 12th place are Ho Chi Minh City’s direct rival in their race against relegation, but even though they are equal on points with the Red Battleship, Ha Tinh still holds the advantage by virtue of having a match in hand as well as a better goal difference and a better head-to-head record.

With the odds stacked well against them, Ho Chi Minh City must do well in their remaining four matches this season while hoping that their three rivals would slip up along the way. The Red Battleship will host Song Lam Nghe An on October 23rd, before traveling to Dong A Thanh Hoa five days later. Ho Chi Minh City then wrap up their league campaign in November with two tough matches against two high-flying teams, with Viettel visiting the Thong Nhat on November 13th and Topenland Binh Dinh hosting the Red Battleship on November 19th.