Southeast Asia Vietnam

Ha Tinh Prolongs V.League 1 Stay with Comeback Win

Hong Linh Ha Tinh were made to work hard for their V.League 1 survival as they had to come from behind to edge out PVF-CAND 3-2 in Saturday’s relegation play-off at the Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi.

Ha Tinh’s 0-0 draw with Dong A Thanh Hoa in the final day of the V.League 1 season meant that the Saola finished the season in 13th place – which requires them to beat PVF-CAND, who finish 2nd in this season’s V.League 2, for a spot in next season’s top-flight.

As per the rules of matches between V.League 1 and V.League 2 sides, Ha Tinh was prohibited from fielding their foreign players, which meant the likes of Bruno Ramires, Abdoulaye Diallo, and Prince Ibara had to sit this one out. However, Ha Tinh were allowed to start Russian striker Viktor Le, whose Vietnamese father meant that he was considered as a local player by the league.

Under fire head coach Nguyen Thanh Cong also deployed his best local talent for this decisive match, with the likes of Luong Xuan Trong, Nguyen Trong Hoang, Lam Anh Quang and Vu Quang Nam all starting for Ha Tinh.

PVF-CAND, a Hung Yen Province-based joint-project between the famous PVF Academy and the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security, managed to pin their more established opponents from the get-go with their youthful talents. The youngsters gave their all in trying to find a way through Ha Tinh’s defense and they got what they were looking for in the 28th minute.

A superb corner by PVF-CAND’s Le Van Do was thumped into Nguyen Thanh Tung’s goal by a powerful header from defender Nguyen Hieu Minh, giving the kids the unlikely lead.

Ha Tinh then suffered an additional blow in the 40th minute when striker Quang Nam went off injured, capping off a dismal first half for the Saola.

Knowing that his team will be relegated if they keep up this disappointing performance, Ha Tinh head coach Thanh Cong decided to shake things up for the second half. Off went former Incheon United and Buriram United man Xuan Trong, with the LPBank Hoang Anh Gia Lai loanee being replaced by defender Nguyen Xuan Hung. This change in personnel allowed Trong Hoang to fill in the injured Quang Nam’s place alongside Viktor in the Ha Tinh attack, which allowed his aggressive, attacking style of play to come into the forefront.

The change in tactics paid dividends in the 58th minute as Trong Hoang blasted home the equalizer from an awkward angle, leaving PVF-CAND goalkeeper Phi Minh Long utterly helpless in his quarters.

PVF-CAND then found themselves trailing in the 70th minute, after Viktor was fouled within the area by Nguyen Xuan Bac. Tran Dinh Tien dispatched the ensuing penalty perfectly past Minh Long, finally giving Ha Tinh the advantage.

The win – and with it Ha Tinh’s place in next season’s V.League 1 – was secured in the 84th minute. A mistake from Vietnam U-23 international Nguyen Duc Phu allowed Ngo Xuan Toan to pass the ball towards Nguyen Van Nhuan, who coolly dispatched it past Minh Long to rescue Ha Tinh’s season.

There was time for PVF-CAND to provide a late scare after goalkeeper Minh Long inexplicably went forward and assisted Le Minh Binh for his side’s second goal, but by then Ha Tinh had already confirmed their spot in next season’s V.League 1, condemning PVF-CAND to another year in the second tier.