Football Tribe SEA Editor
Hanoi FC were once again beaten at their own backyard on Tuesday night, as Sai Gon FC ran out 1-0 winners at the Hang Day Stadium in Round 7 of the 2020 V.League 1. Brazilian striker Geovane scored the only goal of the night, which ensured that Hanoi have lost consecutive league matches at home this season, something that was quite unfathomable in recent years. The result also confirmed Sai Gon as the only unbeaten team in the 2020 V.League season so far, with three wins and four draws from their seven matches.
Both defending V.League 1 champions Hanoi and Sai Gon knew that a win on Tuesday would bring them closer to league leaders Ho Chi Minh City FC, who drew their Round 7 game 2-2 at home to SHB Da Nang. The fact that Song Lam Nghe An shockingly lost 3-0 to bottom side Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh in the earlier kick-off meant that the door was open for either Hanoi or Sai Gon to put the pressure on Ho Chi Minh City.
Moses Oloya returned to the Hanoi starting lineup after a period in the sidelines, while captain Nguyen Van Quyet, Do Hung Dung, and Rimario Gordon also started for Chu Dinh Nghiem’s men. However, Nguyen Quang Hai sat this match out due to an injury that he had sustained in Hanoi’s previous match against Becamex Binh Duong. Hanoi were also missing the likes of Ngan Van Dai, Do Duy Manh, Tran Dinh Trong, and Pape Omar Faye.
Sai Gon head coach/club president Vu Tien Thanh was able to field his strongest lineup for Tuesday’s match, with Pedro Paulo leading the line for the men in pink. The likes of Geovane, Huynh Tan Tai, and Ngo Xuan Toan reinforce the Sai Gon midfield, while former Bali United player Ahn Byung-keon marshaled the defense.
Despite losing a number of key men, Hanoi remained dangerous in the first half. The capital side carved out a number of chances, the best of which came in the 14th minute when Van Quyet missed a sitter from 3 meters out after being served with the perfect ball by Rimario. The Jamaican had lured Sai Gon custodian Pham Van Phong out of his line, leaving the goal open for the taking. However, Van Quyet slammed his shot upwards, missing the open goal.
Hanoi’s inability to make their chances count made itself known once again in the 33rd minute. Pham Thanh Luong sent a very good pass to Nguyen Van Dung, who hits it immediately with power. Sadly, Van Dung applied too much power to his shot and the ball rocketed its way to row Z.
The first half ended goalless. Hanoi had control of the first half with the lion’s share of the ball and the men in purple created a number of excellent chances as well, however they will be kicking themselves as they’ve failed to make the most of those chances.
Two minutes into the second half and Sai Gon managed to stun the Hang Day crowd. Geovane weaved his way through the Hanoi defense with the ball, outmuscling Moses in the process. The Brazilian then fired a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area that went straight into the Hanoi goal much to the disbelief and horror of Hanoi goalkeeper Nguyen Van Cong. 1-0 Sai Gon and the away side have shockingly taken the lead.
Immediately Sai Gon shut up shop after scoring the opener. The men in pink tried their best to hang onto their one goal lead, with Hanoi working hard in chasing that equalizer. In the 53rd minute, Hung Dung tried his luck after some excellent buildup from Tran Van Kien, but Van Phong was there to smother the ball.
In the 57th minute, Hanoi received their best chance of getting an equalizer, after the referee had awarded them a penalty. Cao Van Trien was judged to have fouled Rimario in the penalty area, which prompted the referee to award Hanoi a penalty. Captain Van Quyet was tasked with the job of drawing the scoreline level for Hanoi, facing off in a one-on-one battle against Van Phong. However, Van Quyet fluffed his penalty and sent his shot skywards, much to his, the Hanoi players, the Hanoi coaching staff, and the Hanoi fans’ collective dismay.
The penalty miss prompted Hanoi to try harder in prying through Sai Gon’s defense, with the likes of Bui Hoang Viet Anh, Hung Dung, and Rimario trying their best to get that all-important equalizer for Hanoi. However, Sai Gon’s defense stood firmly to those chances, and even with the 6 minutes of injury time that the referee gave, Hanoi were unable to find any breakthrough. A shellshocked Hanoi were left to rue their missed opportunities as Sai Gon returned back to Ho Chi Minh City with a valuable 1-0 win and all three points.
Meanwhile, in the earlier kick-off, SLNA visited Nam Dinh at the Thien Truong Stadium in Nam Dinh Province expecting three easy points from a side who haven’t won a game since the second round of the 2020 V.League 1. However, the men from Vinh were instead battered 3-0 by a new-look Nam Dinh, who were now underneath the stewardship of Pham Hong Phu. Former Nam Dinh assistant coach Hong Phu replaced the outgoing Nguyen Van Sy in the Nam Dinh dugout, with Van Sy leaving Nam Dinh by mutual consent only a day after their 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Hai Phong FC in Round 6. Emmanuel Tony Agbaji scored once while V.League 1 legend Do Merlo scored twice as Nam Dinh forced SLNA to return to Vinh empty-handed.
Tuesday’s other Round 7 action saw Thanh Hoa FC continue their ascendancy underneath Nguyen Thanh Cong with a 2-0 win over Than Quang Ninh at the Thanh Hoa Stadium. The three points meant that Thanh Hoa FC have barged their way into the top half of the 2020 V.League 1 table, a stark contrast to their abysmal start to the season. Last but not least, two penalties from Bruno Henrique and Hedipo respectively meant that both Hong Linh Ha Tinh and Binh Duong were forced to share the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Teams from Southern Vietnam really showed their class in Round 7 as the top three spots of the V.League 1 table were occupied by teams from the South. Ho Chi Minh City retained their stranglehold of the league despite their draw to Da Nang on Monday, with 14 points to their name. City rivals Sai Gon are in 2nd with 13 points, while Binh Duong rounded up the top three with 11 points. Hanoi-based Viettel FC completed the top four with 11 points as well.
Nam Dinh’s crushing win over SLNA meant that they’re off the bottom of the league and are now in 13th place with 6 points. Replacing them as the league’s basement-dwellers are 2017 champions Quang Nam FC with 4 points. After Vu Hong Viet’s resignation, Quang Nam have appointed former Da Nang youth coach Dao Quang Hung in a bid to turn their season around.