Song Lam Nghe An have assured their participation in the 2021 V.League 1 season after they battled to a 1-0 win over Hai Phong FC in their Round 15 match on Friday. Peter Samuel’s last-gasp goal at the Vinh Stadium meant that SLNA have assumed leadership of the V.League 1 relegation group with only 3 more games to go until the end of the 2020 season.
The last time these two met, Hai Phong battered SLNA 3-1 at the Lach Tray Stadium in the last match of the season’s first half and SLNA are clearly not letting that defeat go from their memories as they square off once again at SLNA’s home turf. With the Vinh Stadium soaking wet from the rainy weather on Friday, both SLNA and Hai Phong displayed attacking play from the get-go, neither of them willing to accept a draw.
Felipe Martins created the first chance of the game for SLNA in the 4th minute, with the former PSMS Medan player receiving a through ball from Phan Van Duc and finding himself facing-off against Hai Phong’s goalkeeper Nguyen Van Toan. Unfortunately for Felipe, his shot went wide and whistled past the goalpost.
Hai Phong then proceeded to threaten SLNA’s goal through their two Diegos, Brazilian Diego Silva and his new strike partner, Jamaican Diego Fagan, with the latter having arrived back at Hai Phong after a brief loan spell at Than Quang Ninh. However, SLNA’s defense stood strong against the onslaught of the two Diegos, with goalkeeper Nguyen Van Hoang making a string of excellent saves to deny Hai Phong their opener.
SLNA also had their fair share of chances in the first half, with Ho Sy Sam drawing a great save from Van Toan and both Peter and Felipe testing the Hai Phong defense with their shots. However, like Hai Phong, SLNA were also unable to find their own breakthrough and the first half ended in a goalless stalemate.
Both SLNA and Hai Phong went for the offensive once again in the second stanza at a muddy Vinh Stadium, with the drenched pitch doing nothing to dampen these two’s tenacities. The start of the second half saw Van Duc and Felipe clicking together beautifully once again, forcing Van Toan into yet another save to deny Felipe his goal. SLNA almost took the lead in the 64th minute after a slip-up from Van Toan in handling a headed back-pass from his teammate, however the Hai Phong defenders came to save their goalkeeper’s blushes by denying Ho Tuan Tai’s shot in the last minute.
Van Hoang came to SLNA’s rescue in the 81st minute by blocking an incoming shot from Fagan, before in the first minute of injury time, the home side finally broke the deadlock. A counterattack from SLNA saw Pham Xuan Manh crossing the ball into the Hai Phong penalty box, where the ball was greeted by a header from Peter. The Nigerian’s effort easily beat Van Toan and gave SLNA the slender lead, which they retained all the way into full-time.
SLNA’s 1-0 win on Friday meant that the men in yellow have collected 21 points to their name, 12 points clear of last-placed Quang Nam FC with only three more matches to go. This meant that SLNA have virtually assured safety and will be part of the 2021 V.League 1 campaign, their 35th consecutive year in the Vietnamese top flight. Hai Phong, on the other hand, are now second-bottom in the league with a mere 13 points to their name, 4 points above Quang Nam. With only three matches to go in the relegation group, Hai Phong’s place in the V.League 1 is pretty much still in danger.