Well, well, well. Sai Gon are a funny old team. Then again, so are many others in the league. The fact that we’re beginning with Sai Gon will tell you that they’re bottom of the V-League. That’s right, all of the mess from pre-season seems to be taking its toll on the side based in Vietnam’s second city. Prior to the season kicking off, there was talk of Sai Gon folding as everybody had seemingly had enough, yet they managed to pull together and they are where they are now. Bottom of the league with four wins from nineteen games. It’s not looking good.

A lot of this will be a case of me making it up as I go along (in terms of layout), it’ll be a right party! To bring you up to speed, I’m going to cover their last five games and then give you some stats from a game that I’ve covered. I THINK I’ve seen every team at least once, so we should have something to work with. Here’s hoping. Let’s begin our Sai Gon tale on the 22nd of June. Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL to me and you) away. In a rather wonderful sort of way, this game sums up Sai Gon’s season so far in a nutshell.

Le Quoc Phuong Got Sai Gon Off To A Flyer

I’ve said numerous times before that HAGL are one of the best footballing sides in Vietnam and I’ve not seen anything to change my mind since I said that prior to the World Cup. So, going into the game, I was expecting nothing more than a HAGL win. My record of calling games seemed to be continuing in a similar fashion when Le Quoc Phuong put Sai Gon in the driving seat with only three minutes on the clock. Game on.

Sai Gon did wonderfully well for the following seven minutes before they thought it’d be a good idea to give away a penalty. Nguyen Cong Phuong made no mistake from twelve-yards and from that moment onwards, the consensus was the game was only going to go one way. Minus a couple of yellow cards, it looked like Sai Gon were going to reach the interval unscathed, but then Tran Minh Vuong put HAGL into the lead for the first time. The writing was well and truly on the wall.

Luong Xuan Truong Made The Game Safe   

As the game entered the last ten minutes, it was still very much in the balance. Sai Gon were pushing more and more men forward which, of course, left a lot of space at the back. Therefore, it came as little surprise when Luong Xuan Truong made the game safe with nine minutes left. Although Dominique Da Sylva made the game more interesting for the final four minutes when he made it 3-2, Sai Gon didn’t threaten a great deal. Final score: HAGL 3-2 Sai Gon.

Another tough away game beckoned the week after for Sai Gon as they travelled to Nghe An to entertain Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA to me and you). In similar circumstances to the HAGL game, not many people expected them to get anything from this away game. Sometimes though, when the pressure is off, unexpected results can be achieved. When Ngoc Duy Nguyen gave Sai Gon the lead, I thought, oh hello, maybe there’s a chance.

Keep It Tight For The First Ten Minutes

Undoubtedly, they would’ve been tasked with keeping a clean sheet for the first ten minutes of the second-half. Job done. They couldn’t win it, could they? Of course they couldn’t. In the eleventh minute of the second-half, their defensive duties went out the window as Van Duc Phan drew SLNA level. He then put SLNA in the lead nine minutes later. Turnaround complete. For the second game running, Sai Gon had chucked away a goal lead. Could they salvage anything from this?

Five minutes after Van Duc Phan got his second of the afternoon, there was goal number four of the evening. Which way did it go? Ngoc Duy Nguyen! 2-2! A valuable point sealed? Don’t be daft. When you take into account that there were nineteen minutes left when Sai Gon drew level, it’s perhaps not that much of a shock that they chucked it away. Again. Michael Olaha got the winner in the 82nd-minute. Second game in a row that Sai Gon lost 3-2. Oh dear. Final score: SLNA 3-2 Sai Gon.

A Six-Pointer To End All Six-Pointers

League-newcomers Nam Dinh travelled to Thong Nhat Stadium in a game that Sai Gon simply had to win. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. Sai Gon had to win this. Nam Dinh were never going to set up in such a way that gave Da Sylva & Co loads of room moving forward, so it was going to be a tight-knit affair from the get-go. Halftime arrived and nobody had broken the deadlock. A draw wasn’t enough for Sai Gon, however, it would suit Nam Dinh down to the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, Sai Gon looked the more likely, it seemed that Nam Dinh had done just enough, though. That was until Le Quoc Phuong popped up in the first minute of stoppage time to send the home fans wild! It was an invaluable goal and one that could prove extremely decisive come the end of the season. Final score: Sai Gon 1-0 Nam Dinh.

Missed Opportunities & A Bad-Tempered End

Our penultimate game is another game at Thong Nhat Stadium. FLC Thanh Hoa were the visitors this time out. For the first time in this recap, Sai Gon conceded the first goal of the game. That came from Hoang Dinh in minute fourteen of the game. It wasn’t as important as the Nam Dinh game, nevertheless, the coaching staff would’ve viewed this game as a chance to get a point. Not the best of starts.

It should’ve taken an upwards turn ten minutes before the break when Sai Gon were awarded a penalty. Chance wasted. I’d love to tell you who missed it, but I’m only working off one website and it doesn’t tell me who it was. I’m going with Da Sylva. Bad miss from Da Sylva. Perhaps. FLC Thanh Hoa saw the game out in the second-half without a great deal of fuss – minus the red card. Sai Gon’s Ngo and Thanh Hoa’s Faye both got a straight red card in stoppage time following a fracas. Final score: Sai Gon 0-1 FLC Thanh Hoa.

Toure Trounces Sai Gon

One of the better sides in the league, Sanna Khanh Hoa, were Sai Gon’s last opponents. I’ve watched them a few times recently and they seem to be going from strength to strength. Youssouf Toure, who is a tireless worker, gave Sanna Khanh the lead two minutes before the break. Not many would expect a response from Sai Gon. Respond they did, though. Kizito, who has recently arrived from Than Quang Ninh got the away side level on the stroke of halftime.

As with the SLNA game, keep it tight for the first ten minutes. Done. Two minutes later, penalty conceded, 2-1. Not good. Sanna Khanh Hoa are a strong, powerful side and it’s no shock that they kept Sai Gon at bay for the rest of the game. Recap over. One win, four losses. Hardly surprising that they’re at the foot of the table.

Hot & Cold Would Be An Understatement

In contrast to the reverse fixture, the last time I watched Sai Gon, they beat SLNA 2-1 (that was the 9th of June). Let’s have a look at what the stats tell us from that game. It was a tight game in the first-half, yet it was one that Sai Gon dominated with 59% possession and more shots on & off goal. It was much the same in the second-half, SLNA turned it up a notch, mind.

A set piece would be Sai Gon’s undoing as a corner was converted with a towering header. 1-0 to SLNA. As I said, a complete reverse. A well-worked moved from a throw-in saw Sai Gon draw level with fourteen minutes of normal time remaining. I can’t be sure, but looking at the data I collected, it seems that Sai Gon’s winner came from a set piece as well.

It was a bizarre old half as Sai Gon only had two efforts on target in the second-half and had 36% of the ball. Without trying to sound cliche, it really was a game of two halves.

The stats from that game show that Sai Gon can do it the hard way when required. They’re running out of time, though. There are seven games left. It’s not over by a long shot. It’d be a good idea for them to start bucking their ideas up, mind you.

Closing Arguments

I don’t expect Sai Gon to drop out of the V-League as there are teams worse than them in the league. One thing is for sure, though, they need to keep hold of a lead. If I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing Sai Gon to get a positive result against Can Tho at the weekend. They’re second bottom. Massive game. What that also means is Can Tho are the next team I’ll be featuring. Unfortunately, that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Until the next time.