On Tuesday, January 23rd, Eastern hosted Vietnam representatives FLC Thanh Hoa in the Asian Champions League qualifiers at Mong Kok Stadium. The Blues took the lead thanks to a Michel Lugo header, but a penalty from captain Pape Omar Faye and a hat-trick by Hoang Dinh Tung means Eastern will not be participating in this year’s ACL.
Both sides started the match with fast tempo passing, however, no chances were produced on goal for quite some while, until Eastern opened the score line in the 25th minute when Cheung Kin-fung’s freekick found Lugo in the box who headed in at the upper right corner.
However, Eastern’s lead did not last very long, as a poor clearance allowed the opposition to take a shot from the edge of the box, causing Yusuke Igawa to accidentally handle the ball, which resulted in a penalty for Thanh Hoa and captain Pape Omar Faye put the ball past Yapp Hung-fai to equalize for the visitors.
Both teams still had the chance to take the lead during injury time of the first half. Lee Hong-lim’s cross was headed by Tsang Kam-to, but goalkeeper Tran Buu Ngoc cleared for an Eastern corner. Thanh Hoa reacted with a fast-paced counter, during which Pape Omar Faye’s through-pass found Le Van Thang, but his shot went well over the bar in a promising one-on-one situation with Yapp Hung-fai.
Thanh Hoa had an exellent start into the second half, while their quick passing and pressing in the final third continued to cause a lot of problems to the home defense. A mistake by Diego Eli allowed the Vietnamese side to obtain the ball deep in the Eastern half, and the following through-pass found Vu Minh Tuan, but his shot was well saved by Yapp Hung-fai. However, the ball was not cleared properly and eventually went to Hoang Dinh Tung who finally put it past Yapp. Two minutes later, Hoang Dinh Tung scored his second goal of the night, giving Thanh Hoa a comfortable two-goal lead.
Eastern managed to get a goal back in the 62nd minute when Le Van Thang elbowed Manuel Bleda inside, and the Spaniard converted from the spot, reducing the deficit by half. In the 79th minute goalkeeper Tran Buu Ngoc handled the ball outside the penalty box, but got away with a yellow card. Michel Lugo was in charge of the subsequent free-kick, but his shot only hit the post.
For the last minutes of the game Thanh Hoa started to drop deeper and managed to keep most of the possession. Meanwhile, Eastern had another chance to equalise in the 90th minute, when a Lugo cross found Manuel Bleda. Tran Buu Ngoc saved the first attempt, and Lam Hok-hei’s follow up shot missed the target. Nonetheless, the Vietnamese guests were not finished yet, and in the last moments of the game Hoang Dinh Tung managed to complete his hat-trick, ending the last glimpse of hope for Eastern and sealing a deserved 4-2 win that will see Thanh Hoa progressing to the ACL qualifying play-off against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. For Easter, on the other hand, this defeat means the beginning of a long break from continental football competitions.
Photo galleries coming soon.