Football Tribe SEA Editor
The inaugural Nghe-Tinh Derby was played out on Sunday night as part of the 2020 V.League 1’s Round 9, which pit hosts Song Lam Nghe An against newly promoted Hong Linh Ha Tinh at the Vinh Stadium. The provinces of Nghe An (SLNA’s home province) and Ha Tinh (Ha Tinh’s home province) were formerly merged together as Nghe Tinh Province, prior to their separation in August of 1991. The two regions were separated by the Ben Thuy Bridge that spans over the Ca River, with the city of Vinh, where SLNA are based at, being located near the bridge. SLNA were once the flag-bearers of football within the region, back then they were known as Song Lam Nghe Tinh. However with Nghe Tinh being split into two, Song Lam Nghe Tinh set up shop at Nghe An province, thus becoming Song Lam Nghe An. The people of Ha Tinh, a passionate group of football supporters, were left desiring for their own team while continuing to pour their support for SLNA.
And while Ha Tinh once had a professional football club, that team was relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in 2010, thus becoming Xuan Thanh Sai Gon which has since disbanded. It wasn’t until nine years later that Ha Tinh would have another professional football club, and ironically, it’s another relocation that granted the province a team. Hanoi FC’s reserve team, who were then playing in the V.League 2, was bought out by the Hong Linh Football Joint Stock Company, thus becoming Hong Linh Ha Tinh. Ha Tinh won the 2019 edition of V.League 2, thus earning promotion to the V.League 1 and setting up the inaugural Nghe-Tinh Derby against their more established neighbors that are SLNA.
Coming into Sunday’s derby, both teams were in desperate need for a win. SLNA, who were league leaders at one point thanks to a gritty victory at the Hang Day over Hanoi, had lost all three of their most recent matches, two of them to teams who were on paper below them. That dire run of form saw SLNA free-falling from the higher echelons of the league to 9th coming into Sunday’s showdown. Ha Tinh on the other hand were looking for a way to escape the lower reaches of the table. They had only lost three games so far this season, but they could only count one win to their name in the league so far. Ha Tinh had been drawing too many games and couldn’t seem to convert one of those draws into a win.
Prior to the derby, the SLNA supporters welcome their Ha Tinh counterparts with open arms at the Ben Thuy Bridge, a celebration that marked the first time that football teams from the neighboring provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh meet one another in a league match in the 28 years that the Nghe Tinh Province was split. The two supporters group then traveled to Vinh Stadium together, where they would become rivals for the next 90 minutes.
As the referee started proceedings in the inaugural Nghe-Tinh Derby, it was Ha Tinh who seized the initiative early on, threatening the SLNA goal in the 10th minute. A lapse within the SLNA defense allowed Ha Tinh’s Pham Tuan Hai to slip through and fire off a shot, which unfortunately for him, struck the goalpost.
Three minutes later, Ha Tinh tried another shot at breaking through the SLNA defense. A long ball forward from the Ha Tinh midfield was well-received by Nguyen Van Hiep, which prompted SLNA goalkeeper Nguyen Van Hoang to rush out of his goal. Van Hoang tried to block Van Hiep, only for the latter to dink the ball above the former’s head. The ball went straight towards the goal, however it bounced off the ground and went behind for a goal kick, missing the net agonizingly.
From there on SLNA gradually gained control of the game, creating a hosts of chances through the likes of Peter Samuel and Nguyen Quang Tinh, Unfortunately for Ngo Quang Trung’s men, neither men could find the target with their chances, and the first half ended as a goalless affair.
The second half once again saw Ha Tinh took the attacking initiative in the early stages of the half and this time it led to them taking the lead. In the 48th minute, a brilliant attacking play from Ha Tinh was capped off by substitute Nguyen Van Tam. Van Tam, who was introduced during half-time replacing Van Hiep, slammed the ball with such power, Van Hoang was powerless to save it. 1-0 and it was the away side who drew first blood.
Down by a goal, SLNA were determined to chase the game as they wanted to avoid a fourth straight defeat. Quang Trung’s charges pressed hard as Pham Minh Duc’s Ha Tinh side preferred to sit back and hit SLNA on the counter after scoring their opener. One such counter in the 63rd minute was easily cleared up field by Van Hoang, allowing SLNA to start a counterattack of their own. With the Ha Tinh defense wide open from their initial counterattack, SLNA took the opportunity to hit back at their opposition. Substitute Phan Van Duc snaked his way into the Ha Tinh defense before laying the ball off towards Ho Tuan Tai, who easily tapped the ball into the net. SLNA have grabbed their equalizer, much to the delight of the home support.
From there on, the inaugural Nghe-Tinh Derby became a back-and-forth exchange of attacks between the two teams. While SLNA were too busy attacking the opposition, Ha Tinh took the opportunity to launch a counterattack in the 77th minute. Nguyen Van Vy launched a shot towards the SLNA goal, but his effort missed the target completely after being deflected away by a SLNA defender. Ha Tinh got a chance to try again in the 80th minute, but Tuan Hai’s header went over Van Hoang’s goal.
In the 88th minute, Ha Tinh received yet another chance to grab a winner, this time through a free-kick from midfield. The ball was pumped into the SLNA penalty area, where Ha Tinh’s Brazilian defender Janclesio headed the incoming ball towards Van Tam, who rifled in a close-range volley. However, instead of getting himself a brace, Van Tam could only watch in dismay as the ball clipped the SLNA goalpost.
In response to Van Tam’s missed opportunity, SLNA went forward and pushed themselves for that winning goal, with two golden opportunities to grab all three points making themselves known in the dying minutes of the derby. The first chance came in the 89th minute, when Peter saw his shot being saved by Ha Tinh’s goalie Duong Quang Tuan. The Nigerian attempted another shot, only for a Ha Tinh defender to beat him to the punch and clear the ball out of the field.
The second chance turned out to be the last highlight of the inaugural Nghe-Tinh Derby, with Peter crossing the ball into the Ha Tinh penalty area. Van Duc received the ball deep within enemy territory and attempted a shot, only for his effort to go wide off target after hitting the goalpost. And with that the referee brought the inaugural Nghe-Tinh Derby to a close, which ends in a 1-1 draw – a result that halted SLNA’s losing streak while at the same time extending Ha Tinh’s reputation as this season’s draw specialists.
In Sunday’s other results, defending champions Hanoi saw their season taking yet another dent after a 42nd minute equalizer from Phan Van Long forced the capital side to a 1-1 draw away at SHB Da Nang. Meanwhile at the Thien Truong Stadium, hosts Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh pulled themselves off the bottom three with a 1-0 win over Quang Nam FC, thanks to a 55th minute goal from Emmanuel Tony Agbaji. Last but not least, former Bali United defender Ahn Byung-keon scored a 4th minute goal as Sai Gon FC reclaimed the V.League 1 pole position with a crushing 3-0 win over Thanh Hoa FC at the Thong Nhat Stadium.
With the conclusion of Round 9, still-unbeaten Sai Gon reoccupy top spot after being ousted for 24 hours, with city rivals Ho Chi Minh City sliding back to 2nd place. Rounding off the top four were Viettel FC on 3rd, and Becamex Binh Duong on 4th. On the other end of the table, Quang Nam now occupy last place thanks to their defeat at the hands of Nam Dinh, who pulled themselves off bottom spot and landed themselves in 11th place. Ha Tinh and Hai Phong FC rounded off the bottom three, with Ha Tinh on 13th place and Hai Phong on 12th place.