Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu took an early 2-0 lead thanks to Nguyễn Ngọc Hùng and Bùi Văn Đức before striker Nguyễn Công Phượng came on for City and completely changed the game.
The appearance of Phượng forced Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu to defend deeply as the visitors flooded forward and Võ Huy Toàn crossed to Phượng who headed in and cut the deficit to 2-1.
Next, it was Phượng's turn to assist Toàn for the equaliser.
With the match approaching the end of regulation, the home side tried to hang on for the penalty shootout, but their hopes were dashed in the 94th minute as Đỗ Văn Thuận popped up for the winner.
City's South Korean coach Chung Hae-soung said he highly appreciated the spirit of his players after the match.
“In the first half, we didn’t play well, but the players were comfortable, so just focusing on expertise. I reminded my players that they only lost two goals, nothing else. Football is 90 minutes. They kept playing until the last minute until the referee blew the whistle to finish the game," Chung said at the press conference after the match.
"I said my players had to do it again after the break. The opponents didn't have many chances, there were only two situations created goals. The player's spirit changed in the second half. I'm very happy with their spirit," Chung added.
Chung also explained why Phượng started on the bench and insisted he hadn't underestimated the V.League 2 opponents.
"Whether we play with the first-division team or the V.League 1 team, we respect them. Whoever prepares well, comes first. If Phượng plays in the first minutes and loses, what would you say? I don't prioritise anyone. Whoever is in good health, he will play first. We had a meeting and a line-up based on their performance during training, we played like the final and we have a chance to enter the final,” said Chung.
In the other quarter-final on Friday, defending champions Hà Nội FC crushed Cần Thơ 7-0. — VNS