By Vu Duc - The Saigon Times Daily
HCMC – National Cup winners Navibank Saigon were knocked out of the AFC Cup after being thrashed 6-2 by Arema Indonesia at Gajayana Stadium on Tuesday.
Malaysian champions Kelantan, Ayeyawady United of Myanmar and both teams lining up last night in Indonesia still had a chance of progression in Group H ahead of the final group games.
Kelantan had a three-point lead at the top of the group and only needed a draw at home to Ayeyawady on Tuesday to seal top spot and a home match in the last 16. Navibank and Ayeyawady were on seven points each from five games with Arema on four points.
The Indonesians needed to win with a few goals to spare to have a sniff of the last 16. Navibank also needed a win to qualify.
Navibank coach Pham Cong Loc’s key concern was fatigue following the long trip from Vietnam to East Java. He was forced to start without suspended captain Vincent Bossou as well as midfielders Phan Van Tai Em, Aniekan Okon Ekpe and defender Nguyen Thanh Long Giang.
The home side dominated the first half, Talaohu Abdul Mushafry scored twice in the 34th and 38th minutes, Slovakian midfielder Roman Chmelo converted two penalties in the eighth and 45th minutes and Ahmad Amiruddin netted another in the 42nd minute as the Indonesians raced into a 5-0 lead at half-time.
Coach Loc made two changes with striker Nguyen Quang Hai replacing midfielder Nguyen Van Khai while striker Luong Van Duoc Em came on for defender Cao Quang Huong.
Edison Fonseca hit his eighth goal in the AFC competition to make it 5-1 after a great ball from Quang Hai.
Hai also netted but Amiruddin made it 6-2 with ten minutes to kill off an unlikely comeback from Navibank.
In the other Group H clash, Kelantan secured their place in the knockout stages with a comfortable 1-0 win over Ayeyawady at Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium, Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
Kelantan took the top spot of the group with 13 points while Arema also progressed thanks to last night’s victory with seven points from six games which put them level with Navibank and Ayeyawady.
Vietnam’s other representatives V-League champions Song Lam Nghe An, who exited from the AFC Cup after losing 6-2 to Terengganu from Malaysia two weeks ago, will take on Tampines Rovers of Singapore in the central city of Vinh on Wednesday.
Terengganu and Hong Kong’ Kitchee, who have already claimed the two last 16 slots in Group F, meet at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, Hong Kong.