|Trần Minh Vương (8, white) and his teammates struggled against the much smarter Yokohama side. — VNA/VNS Photo|
HCM CITY — Hoàng Anh Gia Lai Football Club fell to a 2-0 defeat against Yokohama F. Marinos in their fifth Group H match of the AFC Champions League.
With their exit from the competition confirmed after their previous 1-1 draw to Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, "The Mountain Team" looked to give a decent performance in their last two matches at home.
Jefferson Baiano was once again benched after his subpar performance on Monday. Trần Minh Vương started in his place alongside Lương Xuân Trường, who was handed the captain's armband on his 27th birthday.
Yokohama, the more fancied team, went all-out in attack in the first few minutes. In the eleventh minute, a corner from the Japanese giants forced a double save from keeper Huỳnh Tuấn Linh. Just eight minutes later, Kota Watanabe's curled shot almost went into the far post, but Linh was once again heroic and pulled off a wonderful save.
The HAGL defence held on for thirty-five minutes until Nguyễn Hữu Tuấn fouled Teruhito Nakagawa inside the box. The referee quickly pointed to the penalty spot, where Junior Santos scored with a smart kick.
In the second half, coach Kiatisuk Senamuang brought on Lê Văn Sơn in place of Nguyễn Phong Hồng Duy to bring a new wind of change to the attack. Yokohama F. Marinos on the other hand slowed down the game with short passes inside their own half.
The Japanese side however was still dangerous, should they be given a chance. A Nakagawa header from a Santos cross hit the post and gave HAGL fans a heart-stopping moment.
Having been eliminated from the competition, Kiatisuk brought on young faces such as Nguyễn Thanh Nhân and Võ Đình Lâm to breathe in the Champions League air. The latter almost made an impact in the 57th minute. His shot inside the box was decent but saved by Yosuke Kataoka.
The pace of the game slowed down for the next 30 minutes until another set-piece play gave Marinos their second goal. In the 83rd minute, centre-back Shinnosuke Hatanaka found himself unmarked and his powerful header went straight into the net. Yokohama F. Marinos kept on passing in their own half in the final minutes and the match ended 2-0 to the visitors.
With this result, Kiatisuk Senamuang's men still sit at the bottom of the table with only two points. They will play their last match in this year's AFC Champions League against Sydney FC on May 1, hoping for a better result against an opponent that they earlier held to a 1-1 draw. — VNS