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V-League 1 runners-up lose friendly against S.Korean club in star striker’s debut

Thursday, January 16, 2020, 10:39 GMT+7
V-League 1 runners-up lose friendly against S.Korean club in star striker’s debut
Nguyen Cong Phuong (C) battles for possession during a friendly match between Ho Chi Minh City FC and the Jeonnam Dragons in Ho Chi Minh City on January 14, 2020. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

Vietnam’s V-League 1 2019 runners-up Ho Chi Minh City FC and their recently borrowed star striker Nguyen Cong Phuong suffered a 0-1 loss to K-League 2 side Jeonnam Dragons in a friendly held in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday afternoon.

Ho Chi Minh City FC, who finished second after champions Hanoi FC in the 2019 season of Vietnam’s top professional football league, will represent the Southeast Asian country in the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary round following the Capital Team's failure to obtain an AFC Club License.

In preparation for AFC Champions League play, Ho Chi Minh City FC hosted a friendly with the Jeonnam Dragons at Thong Nhat Stadium in District 10 on Tuesday.

Expectations for the home team ran high as fans eagerly awaited the Ho Chi Minh City FC debut of Nguyen Cong Phuong, a celebrated Vietnamese striker on loan from Sint-Truiden in Belgium’s top-tier Jupiler Pro League

Nguyen Cong Phuong (blue) battles for possession during a friendly match between Ho Chi Minh City FC and the Jeonnam Dragons in Ho Chi Minh City on January 14, 2020. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Cong Phuong (blue) battles for possession during a friendly match between Ho Chi Minh City FC and the Jeonnam Dragons in Ho Chi Minh City on January 14, 2020. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

Phuong’s appearance with the club was first announced on January 6 and he took the field for his first training session with his new teammates on January 8, but the striker was not put on the pitch in the team’s 1-2 defeat against Dongguk University the following day.

Phuong has spent the past four years attempting to make a name for himself with several overseas clubs, including Japan’s Mito Holly Hock in 2016, South Korea's Incheon United in early 2019, and Belgium’s Sint-Truiden late last year.

However, even with such international experience, Phuong was of little help in Ho Chi Minh City FC’s 0-1 defeat against the Jeonnam Dragons in Tuesday’s friendly.

Ho Chi Minh City FC will play Ulsan Hyundai, the 2019 runners-up of South Korea’s top-level K-League 1, on Friday in their fifth friendly ahead of the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary round.

Nguyen Cong Phuong (R) battles for possession during a friendly match between Ho Chi Minh City FC and the Jeonnam Dragons in Ho Chi Minh City on January 14, 2020. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Cong Phuong (R) battles for possession during a friendly match between Ho Chi Minh City FC and the Jeonnam Dragons in Ho Chi Minh City on January 14, 2020. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

The club will depart for Thailand afterward for a match against Thai football club Buriram United in the preliminary round opener on January 21.

Ho Chi Minh City FC are set to compete on four fronts this year: the V-League 1, the National Cup, the AFC Champions League preliminary round, and the ASEAN Club Championship.

The 2020 AFC Champions League is the 39th edition of Asia's premier club football tournament organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the18th under the current AFC Champions League name.

A total of 28 teams will compete from January 14 to 28 for eight of the 32 places in the group stage of the championship.

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