Football Tribe SEA Editor
Matchweek 2 of the 2020 V.League 1 was played last weekend and like the first matchweek, it was played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The action kicks-off on Friday as Hai Phong FC hosted Quang Nam FC at the Lach Tray Stadium in Hai Phong. The Northerners, looking to build upon their solid 1-0 win over Thanh Hoa FC last time out, were shocked in the 18th minute after Hoang Vissai inadvertently scored past his own goalkeeper. Stung by that own goal, Hai Phong pressed on and on, while 2017 champions Quang Nam did excellently to hang onto their lead. That was, until the 88th minute when Joseph Mpande scored for Hai Phong to earn a point for his team, the Ugandan’s second goal in two games this season. The match ended 1-1 with both Hai Phong and Quang Nam sharing the spoils.
There were two matches on Saturday, with newly-promoted Hong Linh Ha Tinh once again succumbing to defeat, this time at the hands of Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh. Goals from Do Merlo and Le Sy Minh sent Nam Dinh to victory, with Bruno Henrique’s goal only serving as mere consolation for Ha Tinh. Saturday’s other match saw a single Phan Van Duc goal earning Song Lam Nghe An all three points against Becamex Binh Duong.
A huge shock occurred on Sunday as Than Quang Ninh stunned their fellow Northern Vietnam neighbors and defending champions Hanoi FC with a resounding 3-1 win at the Cam Pha Stadium. Fresh off a 4-1 mauling of Cambodia’s Preah Reach Khan Svay Rieng in the AFC Cup during midweek, Phan Thanh Hung’s Quang Ninh enjoyed a superb night against title favorites Hanoi, with an early Mac Hong Quan goal coupled with a brace from Jeremie Lynch doing a superb job in subduing the defending champions, who could only grab a consolation goal from Papa Ibou Kebe. Without the services of the injured Do Duy Manh and Tran Dinh Trong, Hanoi looked second best against a rampant Quang Ninh.
Last year’s runners-up Ho Chi Minh City FC hosted Thanh Hoa at the Thong Nhat Stadium, with the hosts hoping to set the pace for the season with another win. Fabio Lopez’s Thanh Hoa had other plans though and the Lam Son Warriors managed to frustrate Jung Hae-seong’s Ho Chi Minh City to no end. It looked like Thanh Hoa might manage to nick off a point from Ho Chi Minh City with a goalless draw, with the home team having failed to beat Thanh Hoa at the Thong Nhat in any of their previous meeting so far.
Step forward, Nguyen Xuan Nam.
Coming in as a substitute, Xuan Nam, who had impressed in his previous game against Lao Toyota in midweek’s AFC Cup action, once again proved his mettle as a super-sub. The former SHB Vientiane and Pho Hien FC striker scored the winner for Ho Chi Minh City in what’s virtually the last kick of the game, ensuring that Jung Hae-seong’s charges retain their perfect start to the season with the 1-0 victory.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Ho Chi Minh City’s city rivals Sai Gon FC overcame their off-the-pitch issues in some style after a 4-1 demolition job of hosts SHB Da Nang at the Hoa Xuan Stadium. The build-up toward Matchweek 2 saw Sai Gon’s head coach Hoang Van Phuc unexpectedly resigning from his job after disagreements with the club’s higher-ups and for the away trip to Da Nang, club president Vu Vien Thanh was in the dugout as caretaker head coach. The off-field issues don’t seem to affect the men in pink that much though, as Sai Gon scored what is the fastest goal in V.League 1 history after 12 seconds through Pedro Paulo. Huynh Tan Tai doubled Sai Gon’s lead in the 31st minute before Paulo scored his second in the 75th minute, with Nguyen Vu Tin scoring Sai Gon’s fourth goal five minutes afterward. Ismahil Akinade’s 89th minute goal only serve as a consolation for Le Huynh Duc’s shell-shocked Da Nang side.
Last but not least, at Hanoi’s Hang Day Stadium, Viettel FC and Hoang Anh Gia Lai served up a classic with a thrilling 3-3 draw that saw a grandstand of a finish. HAGL were coasting to an easy 2-0 victory through goals from Chevaughn Walsh and Trieu Viet Hung when Viettel finally sprung into life in the final 10 minutes. Bruno Cantanhede scored a brace and Nguyen Viet Phong scored once to suddenly tilt the tie into Viettel’s favor as the match enters injury time. It took Nguyen Van Anh’s effort in the first minute of injury time to make sure that HAGL leave Hanoi with a point, but Lee Tae-hoon and his players will be kicking themselves for allowing such an easy victory to slip away from their grasps – in other words, two valuable points dropped on the road.
With the 2020 V.League 1 set to be suspended until the end of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the teams from Ho Chi Minh City that dominated the top two places of the standings, with Ho Chi Minh City leading the way with 6 points from 2 games and Sai Gon tailing closely behind on 2nd with 4 points. HAGL rounded off the top three places with 4 points of their own while defending champions Hanoi are 8th with 3 points to their name. Shifting our attention to the lower half of the table, the relegation play-off spot was occupied by Thanh Hoa, while Da Nang are dead last in the automatic relegation spot.