AFC Cup: Rivals’ Watch – Vissai Ninh Binh
Sportskeeda profiles Churchill Brothers’ AFC Cup round of 16 opponents – Vietnam’s Vissai Ninh Binh.
The origins of the club can be traced back to 1991 when the Ninh Binh football team was established by the department of sports of the city of Ninh Binh. However in 2007 the team was handed over to cement group, ‘Vissai’ and the club was soon rebranded as Vissai Ninh Binh. They were playing in the second division of the V-League back then but won the second tier title in 2010 and won promotion to the top flight. They finished 11th among 14 teams in their first V-League campaign but were fourth in the second season. Vissai Ninh Binh finished eighth and tenth in the next two campaigns and won their first major trophy in 2013 as they lifted the Vietnam Cup. Following that triumph they qualified for the 2014 AFC Cup and also won the 2014 Vietnam Super Cup. Vissai Ninh Binh won their group in their debut AFC Cup appearance with five wins and one draw to progress to the round of 16.
Vissai Ninh Binh started the season on a good note as they defeated V-League holders Hanoi T&T on penalties to clinch the Vietnam Super Cup title. But they struggled to win matches in the domestic league with just one victory from eight matches. By contrast, their form in the AFC Cup was impressive as they won their first four matches to qualify for the knockout stage. But then the club were hit by a match-fixing scandal with 13 players of the squad under investigation. Results of domestic matches were under scrutiny while their 3-2 win over Malaysia’s Kelantan in the AFC Cup was also suspected. Eventually 11 players admitted to illegal betting specifically in that match against Kelantan. The club eventually decided to withdraw from the V-League and thus all the results of their eight completed matches became null and void.
The AFC however allowed the Vietnam club to continue their AFC Cup campaign and they ended the group stage with a 4-1 away win over Myanmar’s Yangon United despite the absence of those 13 players including several Vietnam internationals. However due to their withdrawal from the V-League several key local players and three foreigners left the club. As a result coach Nguyen Van Sy has been preparing for this round of 16 encounter against Churchill Brothers with only 15 players including veteran striker Phạm Van Quyen who has come out of retirement for this match. The duo of Hoang Danh Ngọc and Le Van Thang are also available for this game after previously being under investigation. They will have home advantage in this one-legged contest but very few players of the 15-man squad used to be regulars before the match-fixing scandal with the majority being inexperienced.
Sim Woon Sub
The South Korean is the only foreigner that the club has managed to retain in this crisis. The 24-year-old used to be a regular in Vissai’s Nin Binh’s midfield even before the match-fixing scandal but could be used in central defence for this game.
Hoang Danh Ngọc
The 24-year-old operates as a left winger and used to be a starter before the scandal also. Ngoc, who is a former Vietnam U-23 international, will have to take extra responsibility in this game and be at his absolute best.
Le Van Thang
The Vietnam international can function both on the wing and upfront and is likely to be used as a striker against Churchill Brothers. Thang scored against Kelantan in the group stage and would be determined to get on the scoresheet in this tie.