Football Tribe SEA Editor
The 2020 V.League 1 season has kicked-off over the weekend and the excitement is quite palpable despite the opening matchday being played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak. There were not too many surprises in the first matchday, as most of the favorites won their respective matches.
Friday, March 6th saw the first set of matches kicking-off, with last year’s 3rd placers Than Quang Ninh traveling to Pleiku, Gia Lai Province to take on hosts Hoang Anh Gia Lai. HAGL, who were struggling during the middle and later parts of the 2019 season, got off to a very strong start as they saw off favorites Quang Ninh 1-0, thanks to a 56th minute strike from Chau Ngoc Quang.
Friday’s other match saw last year’s runners-up Ho Chi Minh City FC taking on 2017 V.League 1 champions Quang Nam FC at the Tam Ky Stadium in Tam Ky, Quang Nam Province. Hosts Quang Nam had saw a decline in their performances in both 2018 and 2019 after their shock 2017 title win, and they’re determined to improve their results in 2020. Ho Chi Minh City, who had been spending big in the transfer market to give themselves a shot at the V.League title, were shocked by the determined hosts in the 62nd minute after Lucas Rocha opened the scoring for the Central Vietnam side. However, refusing to throw in the towel just yet, Jung Hae-seong’s Ho Chi Minh City side fought back brilliantly and scored three times to turn the tide to their favor, with a Ngo Viet Phu strike (67′) and a brace from Nguyen Xuan Nam (88′ and 90+5′) setting Ho Chi Minh City to a fine 3-1 away win.
The action on Saturday, March 7th saw defending champions Hanoi FC starting their title defense at home against fellow Northern Vietnam side Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh. A huge, boisterous support has always been Nam Dinh’s strongest weapon since their return to the top flight in 2018, and with the COVID-19 outbreak forcing V.League 1 matches to be played behind close doors, the men in yellow are deprived of their strongest asset, especially when taking on what arguably is one of the best teams in Southeast Asia right now. Things went sour right away for Nam Dinh after Le Quoc Huong scored a 9th minute own goal before Ngan Van Dai made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute. SHB Da Nang legend Do Merlo opened his account for Nam Dinh in the 52nd minute to reduce the deficit, however, Bui Hoang Viet Anh made it 3-1 Hanoi in the 70th minute. Rafaelson gave Nam Dinh a glimmer of hope in the 85th minute with a debut goal of his own, however, two minutes afterward Pape Omar Faye sealed the three points for the defending champions. The match ended in a resounding 4-2 victory for Hanoi.
Saturday’s other match saw newly-promoted top-flight debutant Hong Linh Ha Tinh FC being greeted to the V.League 1 in the harshest way possible, losing at home 1-0 to Viettel FC thanks to a late Nguyen Viet Phong goal.
Last but not least, on Sunday, March 8th, three more matches were played out to wrap up the first matchweek of the 2020 V.League 1 – former Shan United and Kalteng Putra man Hedipo’s early strike helped Becamex Binh Duong to a 1-0 win over visiting Da Nang, while Thanh Hoa FC lost 1-0 at home to Hai Phong FC thanks to a late Joseph Mpande goal. And finally, both Sai Gon FC and Song Lam Nghe An played out a goalless draw at the Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh City.