HCM CITY — Viet Nam’s Ninh Binh FC face a high risk of exiting the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup after losing 2-4 to Kitchee of Hong Kong at home in the quarter-finals first leg yesterday.
With nine players suspended for match-fixing accusations and a hastily assembled squad that lacked training, Ninh Binh got the match off to a slow and scrappy start, allowing the visiting team to control the match and exploit the flanks, which gave them two initial goals.
Hong Kong’s Kitchee took the lead in the first half through Spanish striker Juan Carlos Rodriguez Belencoso in the 28th minute and Ngan Lok Fung doubled the advantage four minutes into the second half.
Nigerian striker Suleiman Oladoja Abdullahi pulled back one goal for the home team in the 58th minute with a close-range header but Xu Deshuai restored the two-goal cushion in the 73th minute with a powerful shot to the roof of the net.
The home team quickly reduced the gap to one goal with a wonderful goal by striker Le Van Thang, who brilliantly controlled the ball on the edge of the penalty area and spun to volley the ball to the low corner of the net past keeper Wang Zhenpeng.
Thang’s goal set up an anxious finish for Kitchee as the home team stepped up their attacking efforts in search of an equaliser, but Hong Kong’s football team was stronger in numbers and used the wasting-time strategy to deflect all attacks from the home team.
If Ninh Binh still hoped for a comeback, those hopes was dashed by a terrible mistake from goalkeeper Tran Buu Ngoc in the injury time.
Ngoc deserves praise for his quick, clever decision to rush off the line to deal with a long ball from Kitchee. However, the way he handled the ball deserves the same measure of criticism.
He reached the ball first and made a flick with his right leg to pass to Belencoso, but the ball hit his left leg. The Spanish player stole the ball and, from outside the penalty area, made no mistake putting the ball into the empty net in the third minute of the four-minute added time.
Coach Nguyen Van Sy and his players will face an uphill task to overturn the deficit in the second leg next Tuesday in Hong Kong.
Ha Noi T&T, Viet Nam’s other representative in the AFC Cup, also did not have a good result last night in the first leg when they suffered a home 1-0 loss by Ebril of Iraq.