Newly promoted Hong Linh Ha Tinh squeezed their way into the 2020 V.League 1 championship group after edging out bottom-dwellers Quang Nam FC 3-2 in their Round 13 clash on Thursday. The three points, combined with a number of favorable results from across the league, meant that Ha Tinh, who had spent much of the season’s first half in the lower reaches of the V.League 1 table, somehow found themselves competing with the league’s top 8 teams for the season’s second half.
Coming into Thursday night’s showdown at the Ha Tinh Stadium, Ha Tinh knew that they must depend on their competitors above them to slip their way into the championship group as the season reaches its halfway mark. Ha Tinh must beat Quang Nam while at the same time hoping for a slip-up from either Hoang Anh Gia Lai, Becamex Binh Duong, or SHB Da Nang in order to propel themselves out of the V.League’s bottom half and into the top 8. HAGL host Ho Chi Minh City FC at the Pleiku Stadium, while Binh Duong took on 2nd placed Viettel FC at the Go Dau Stadium. Da Nang, on the other hand, travel to Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh for their Round 13 match.
Things went according to scenario in Ha Tinh’s part for the opening stages of their match, as they took a 1-0 lead after just 7 minutes thanks to a close-ranged header from Bruno Henrique. The Brazilian took advantage of an excellent cross from Nguyen Van Vy, who in turn managed to outmuscle the ball from Quang Nam’s Nguyen Anh Hung only moments prior.
Ha Tinh retained their 1-0 lead all the way into half-time and with all Round 13 matches being played out at the same time, Pham Minh Duc’s men were able to find out how their closest rivals are doing in their respective matches. During the interval, HAGL lead Ho Chi Minh City 3-1, Binh Duong were 2-0 up against Viettel, while Nam Dinh managed to force Da Nang to a goalless draw.
Knowing that Nam Dinh are doing their part in helping their climb into the championship group, Ha Tinh started the second stanza with renewed vigor. And in the 47th minute, the home side doubled their lead – Bruno crossed the ball from the right wing into the Quang Nam penalty box, with the ball being deflected away by Quang Nam goalkeeper Pham Van Cuong. Van Cuong was unable to deflect the ball far enough though and it fell into the possession of Pham Tuan Hai, who immediately rifled in a shot. Van Cuong managed to once again deflect the ball away from his goal, however Tuan Hai seized on the rebound with a scrappily-taken shot that rolled its way into the Quang Nam goal.
Being 2-0 down apparently stung Quang Nam into life and after both Van Vy and Bruno failed to seal the game off for Ha Tinh, the 2017 V.League 1 champions grabbed themselves a lifeline from the most unexpected of sources in the 55th minute. Substitute Nguyen Van Trang had a pop from distance and much to his surprise and delight, the ball made its way into Duong Quang Tuan’s goal.
Quang Nam’s hopes of reviving themselves were dashed six minutes after Van Trang’s goal though, as the Central Vietnam-based team found themselves playing with 10 men after Anh Hung received his second yellow card and with it his marching orders for a foul on Bruno.
Ha Tinh seized the numbers advantage and scored their third goal of the night in the 71st minute. A Ha Tinh corner from the left resulted in a skirmish in front of the Quang Nam goal, and Victor Mansaray took advantage of the skirmish to fire in a point-blank range shot that gave Ha Tinh a two-goal cushion.
Two minutes after Ha Tinh’s goal, however, Quang Nam struck back once again through Ha Minh Tuan’s powerful header, ensuring a nervous 17 minutes for Ha Tinh. The home side managed to preserve their 3-2 lead though and as the referee blew for full-time, Ha Tinh knew that they’ve done their part. And with a 67th minute strike from Hoang Minh Tuan ensuring a 1-0 win for Nam Dinh over Da Nang, Ha Tinh are through to the V.League 1 championship group regardless of the other results at both the Pleiku Stadium and the Go Dau Stadium.
And indeed, Round 13 produced a number of results that saw teams already qualified to the championship group in the previous round letting go of the gas and allowing those seeking to qualify to take advantage. Ho Chi Minh City succumbed to a 5-2 defeat away at HAGL, a result that both preserved HAGL’s impregnable home record this season and ensuring the Pleiku-based team’s qualification to the championship group. Binh Duong managed to retain their 2-0 lead over Viettel all the way into full-time, a result that clinched Binh Duong’s ticket to the championship group.
Elsewhere, at the Hang Day Stadium, Hanoi FC were forced to a 1-1 draw by Thanh Hoa FC, in a match that saw former Hanoi talisman Hoang Vu Samson scoring against his old club, while both Sai Gon FC and Than Quang Ninh played out a goalless draw at the Thong Nhat Stadium, with the draw sufficient enough for Sai Gon to be crowned as mid-season champions. Last but not least, Hai Phong FC managed to condemn Song Lam Nghe An to a 3-1 defeat at the Lach Tray Stadium.
With all 13 rounds of the V.League 1’s first half done and dusted, the league splits into two for the second half of the season, with teams in both the championship and relegation groups playing each other once. Sai Gon, Viettel, Quang Ninh, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, HAGL, and Ha Tinh will fight it out for both the V.League 1 title and qualification to Asian competitions in the championship group, while Da Nang, Thanh Hoa, SLNA, Nam Dinh, Hai Phong, and Quang Nam will battle it out to avoid relegation to the V.League 2 at the end of the season in the relegation group. There will be only one team relegated out of the V.League 1 this season – the last-placed team, and everyone in the relegation group must be on their very best to avoid finishing in that dreaded 14th place.