Ha Noi smash four past S.League giants Tampines Rovers in AFC Cup
S.League giants Tampines Rovers had more away blues in the AFC Cup on Wednesday after they were handed a 4-0 defeat by Vietnam's Ha Noi FC at the My Dinh Stadium.
Loris Arnaud got the hosts on their way when he broke the deadlock after 16 minutes, before Nguyen Van Quyet added a second in the 65th minute to put them firmly in control of proceedings.
The two goals would have been enough to secure Ha Noi's first win in Group G but they were not done yet, with Do Hung Dung and Gonzalo Marronkle adding further strikes right at the death to add the gloss to the scoreline.
The result now leaves Tampines in a tricky situation if they are to qualify for the knockout round, a far cry from when they opened their continental campaign with victory over Felda United.
Although their confidence would have undoubtedly taken a beating after last week's 5-0 humbling at the hands of Ceres-Negros, they did at least get back to winning ways at the weekend in the S.League by beating Balestier Khalsa.
But, right from the opening whistle, Ha Noi looked the better side and Stags keeper Izwan Mahbud had plenty to do early on.
The visitors were given a real scare in the 15th minute when Van Quyet chased down a long ball and got in ahead of Izwan before cutting the ball back, although Madhu Mohana raced back in time to clear Arnaud's shot before it could cross the line.
Just a minute later, however, the same combination provided the hosts with the breakthrough.
Receiving possession inside the box, Van Quyet did well to dig the ball out from beneath his feet and lay it back to the edge of the box, where Arnaud's low drive took a wicked deflection off Ismadi Mukthar and left a wrong-footed Izwan with no chance.
With a goal to their name, Ha Noi began to gain a stranglehold on proceedings and the visitors' best chance at breaking down their opponents looked to be from counterattacks.
They did threaten seven minutes after the half-hour mark when Ryutaro Megumi left Sam Ngoc Duc with a blistering turn of pace, only to send a cross straight at Nguyen Van Cong with two team-mates to aim for.
Ha Noi also had their chances to edge further ahead and Izwan made a handful of smart saves shortly after halftime to twice deny Marronkle, as well as keep out a firm effort from Tran Van Kien.
Then, in the 64th minute, it looked as though Tampines' moment had arrived.
Moments after Marronkle had failed to capitalise on an error by Daniel Bennett, Khairul Amri found space down the left and broke free after skipping inside Nguyen Thanh Chung.
However, with only Van Cong to beat, the usually-deadly Singapore international inexplicably placed his shot wide of the far post.
Then, it was the hosts' turn to have a chance to immediately punish the opposition for missing and, this time, they made no mistake.
Having shaped up as their most dangerous player, it was perhaps no surprise that it was Van Quyet who ghosted into the box to meet Moses Oloya's right-wing cross and send a stooping header into the back of the net.
By now, it appeared a formality that Ha Noi would play out the remainder of the contest to secure the result, and their cause was significantly aided by their opponents seemingly lacking any ideas in the final third.
Just for good measure, they added a third in the 89th minute when Bennett allowed a high ball to bounce in the area and then failed to do enough to fend off Hung Dung, who proceeded to lash an unstoppable shot past Izwan.
Still, Tampines' misery was not over yet, in the second minute of injury-time, Ha Noi were awarded a penalty when Izwan felled Hung Dung inside the area, paving the way for Marronkle to blast home from 12 yards and cap off an emphatic display reigning V.League 1 champions.
Ha Noi: Nguyen Van Cong, Tran Van Kien, Do Duy Manh, Nguyen Thanh Chung (Nguyen Dai Dong 76'), Sam Ngoc Duc, Moses Oloya, Do Hung Dung, Nguyen Van Quyet, Nguyen Quang Hai (Truong Van Thai Quy 67'), Loris Arnaud (Trinh Duy Long 89'), Gonzalo Marronkle.
Tampines Rovers: Izwan Mahbud, Ismadi Mukhtar (Jufri Taha 46'), Madhu Mohana, Daniel Bennett, Irwan Shah, Ryutaro Megumi, Yasir Hanapi (Shahdan Sulaiman 74'), Son Yong-chan, Jamil Ali (Sahil Suhaimi 62'), Ivan Dzoni, Khairul Amri.
Gabriel Tan is a radio and TV pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.