Hanoi FC’s new head coach Park Choong-kyun has had a shocker of a debut on Wednesday as his side went down 1-0 at their very own Hang Day Stadium to Topenland Binh Dinh in Round 11 of the 2021 V.League 1 season. A single goal from Hendrio was enough for the newly-promoted visitors to see off the 5-time V.League 1 champions, the latest chapter in Hanoi’s inconsistent form this season that saw the title favorites inexplicably finding themselves at the wrong end of the league table.
Hanoi’s erratic start to the season has seen long-serving club servant Chu Dinh Nghiem leaving the club in early April, with Hoang Van Phuc filling in as caretaker head coach. Underneath Van Phuc’s stewardship Hanoi did not fare better – playing three times, the Capital Team lost twice and won only once before former Tianjin Quanjian head coach Choong-kyun was installed as Hanoi’s new head coach ahead of their Round 11 tie against Binh Dinh.
The Dark Horses came to the Hang Day having failed to win their last three matches, with Nguyen Duc Thang’s men losing twice in a row prior to Wednesday’s match. However, they managed to display a confident performance against a Hanoi side containing the likes of Do Duy Manh, Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Van Quyet, Ngan Van Dai, Geovane and substitute Bruno Cantanhede. Jamaican striker Rimario Gordon almost became a scourge to his former team as he threatened Bui Tan Truong’s goal in the 14th minute with a powerful header that went wide above the goal, before his Brazilian teammate Hendrio managed to beat Tan Truong in the 22nd minute with a thunderous low drive.
Hanoi then proceeded to throw the kitchen sink at the Binh Dinh defense, however the visitors’ backline performed an admirable job to snuff out any danger created by the home side. Goalkeeper Tran Dinh Minh Hoang performed a number of saves to thwart any hopes of a Hanoi comeback and not even the introduction of Bruno, replacing captain Van Quyet, could salvage a point for the Capital Team. In the end Binh Dinh managed to hang onto their lead and finished the match as 1-0 winners, condemning Hanoi to their sixth defeat of the season – a tally that equals the total sum of Hanoi’s defeats in the past two V.League 1 seasons.
Wednesday’s Round 11 action saw league leaders Hoang Anh Gia Lai winning their seventh game in a row, beating Dong A Thanh Hoa 2-1 at the Thanh Hoa Stadium. Sai Gon FC were also 2-1 winners in their own match, beating SHB Da Nang at the Hoa Xuan Stadium with that scoreline. Do Merlo returned to Da Nang to haunt the team where he had spent a good chunk of his career at with a goal in the 49th minute, before Bui Xuan Quy became the first Sai Gon player not named Do Merlo to score a V.League 1 goal this season with what turned out to be a winner, rendering Rafaelson’s injury time goal as mere consolation for Da Nang.
Last but not least, Song Lam Nghe An were condemned to last place in the league after losing 2-0 away at Hai Phong FC.
With two rounds to go before the league splits into two in the midway point of the season, the clear difference between those who will occupy the championship group and those who will occupy the relegation group is still yet to be seen. Only HAGL and defending champions Viettel FC have confirmed their tickets to the championship group, while eight points separate Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh in third and SLNA in 14th place. The likes of Nam Dinh and Binh Dinh were welcome surprise packages to the season, while Than Quang Ninh managed to remain competitive despite losing a chunk of their key players and their head coach during pre-season and having to struggle financially throughout this season. Da Nang and Thanh Hoa were also looking decent after being disappointing for the past couple of years.
The same cannot be said for the likes of Hanoi, Sai Gon, and Ho Chi Minh City FC, with the trio undergoing huge struggles throughout this season. Having finished within the top five last year, the trio found themselves staring the possibility of qualifying into the relegation group by the barrel. However, the tight nature of the league meant that should they pick up results in their final two matches of the season’s first half, they might squeeze their way into the championship group.