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Group F: Ho Chi Minh City FC's Xuan Nam sinks Lao Toyota FC

Vientiane: Substitute Nguyen Xuan Nam scored twice as Ho Chi Minh City FC eventually saw off a stubborn Lao Toyota FC to seal a 2-0 win at the National Stadium in Vientiane in Group F of the 2020 AFC Cup on Tuesday.

Xuan Nam netted twice in the final 18 minutes to ensure a frustrating evening for Ho Chi Minh City ended with all three points going back to Vietnam despite a series of missed opportunities for Jeong Hae-seong’s side to wrap up the win much earlier.

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Former Celtic striker Amido Balde squandered several opportunities to give Ho Chi Minh City the lead before he was replaced 16 minutes into the second half by Xuan Nam.

The switch made the difference for Ho Chi Minh City, who move onto seven points from their first three games in the 2020 campaign to sit level with Yangon United at the top of the standings.

Lao Toyota survived a pair of early scares to reach the interval unscathed. Balde was the unfortunate party on both occasions Ho Chi Minh City looked set to open the scoring, only for the Guinea-Bissau international to be denied.

With just two minutes on the clock, Balde nodded Nguyen Cong Phuong’s curling ball forward towards goal but a sprawling Soukthavy Soundala managed to push the ball onto the post before it was hacked clear.

Ten minutes later Balde had only himself to blame for not finding the back of the net. Soukthavy spilled Tran Phi Son’s low centre from the right into the striker’s path, but Balde somehow managed to drag the ball wide of the post.

The home side offered little in attack, save for a Goran Jerkovic header that flew straight at Ho Chi Minh City goalkeeper Nguyen Thanh Thang as the visitors dominated.

Balde was off target again in the opening exchanges of the second half when he headed over the bar under pressure from the Lao Toyota defence and soon after he made way for Xuan Nam.

Eleven minutes after his introduction, the 26-year-old put his side in front. A long punt forward from deep caused confusion in the Lao Toyota defence and, after Norihiro Kawakami failed to clear, Xuan Nam stole in to drive his shot home off the underside of the bar.

Lao Toyota moved onto the front foot to try to find a way back into the game, but Xuan Nam put the result beyond any doubt in the final minute when he put his right foot shot beyond Soukthavy to end the home side’s resistance.

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