Wednesday saw the 2021 V,League 1 played out it’s eighth round, a set of midweek matches that saw a number of interesting encounters as the league enters the halfway mark of its first half. League leaders Hoang Anh Gia Lai took on closest chasers SHB Da Nang at the Hoa Xuan Stadium, while Hanoi FC host Viettel FC in the first Capital Derby of the season. A spirited Than Quang Ninh, undeterred by their unpaid wages, welcome a free-falling Sai Gon FC to the Cam Pha Stadium, while an equally struggling Ho Chi Minh City FC seek redemption as Song Lam Nghe An paid the Thong Nhat Stadium a visit.
Da Nang’s match against HAGL saw the two pacesetters of the season clashing against one another as they seek to establish some degree of dominance in the league before the major powers manage to recover themselves from their slump. The match was, as expected, a fiercely contested one, however Kiatisuk Senamuang’s HAGL once again worked their magic after a goalless first half. Nguyen Van Toan and Nguyen Cong Phuong scored the goals as the Mountain Men saw off the Han River Team 2-0, which marked the first time in the V.League 1’s history that HAGL have kept five consecutive clean sheets. This fearsome defensive display could benefit HAGL massively in the long run as they could start dreaming of a first V.League 1 title since 2004.
Cash-strapped Than Quang Ninh made a complete mockery of their financial plight as they take on a Sai Gon side who are in complete free-fall. The Hero Miner, who had failed to pay their players from September 2020 to April 2021, produced a professional performance that became a hallmark of theirs in the 2021 season, seeing off Sai Gon 1-0 thanks to a Diogo Pereira penalty in the 63rd minute. The defeat, combined with other results in Round 8, meant that Sai Gon – who were top of the V.League 1 table at this point of the season in 2020 – will finish the round rock bottom of the league.
Despite their excellent form, Quang Ninh’s players are planning to hold a strike in Round 9 should the club fail to address what they had owed them. The Hero Miner are scheduled to play Hanoi away in their Round 9 match to be played on April 11th and should Quang Ninh’s higher-ups fail to pay the players’ salary, then the players would refuse to turn out against Hanoi in the weekend.
Having replaced long-time servant of the club Chu Dinh Nghiem with caretaker head coach Hoang Van Phuc after their defeat at the hands of Da Nang in Round 7, Hanoi came to the Capital Derby at the Hang Day with high hopes that they would turn around their inconsistent season. However, defending league champions Viettel showed the Capital Team that they are still some way off the road to recovery as the Red Tornado inflicted a 1-0 defeat on their city rivals thanks to a 7th minute winner from Nguyen Trong Hoang. As expected from such a heated rivalry, both teams finished the match with 10 men after Hanoi’s Pham Duc Huy and Viettel’s Caique Lemes were ejected from the field by the referee in the dying minutes of the derby.
After three consecutive defeats at the hands of Hanoi, HAGL, and Topenland Binh Dinh, Ho Chi Minh City host SLNA with only one thing in mind – redemption. And redemption is exactly what Alexandre Polking’s Red Battleship got – goals from Junior Barros, Ngo Tung Quoc, and a penalty from Lee Nguyen, all scored in the second half, sent Ho Chi Minh City to a comfortable 3-0 win over their visitors from Vinh, with the result potentially sparking confidence back into the Red Battleship. As for SLNA, defeat meant that the Golden Lotus have lost all three of their most recent three games and they found themselves stranded on 12th place.
Other Round 8 results saw Binh Dinh playing out a 1-1 draw away at Hong Linh Ha Tinh, Dong A Thanh Hoa continuing their revival in form with a 3-0 battering of Hai Phong FC at the Thanh Hoa Stadium, and Nguyen Tien Linh scoring a hat-trick as Becamex Binh Duong edged out Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh 4-3 at the Go Dau Stadium.