Ha Noi T&T welcomed Da Nang to the Hang Day for the Sunday evening fixture. Having lost 0-2 in the away match I was slightly apprehensive but confident due to HaNoi recent run of good from. Thinking back to that game in Da Nang I instantly thought of the rock hard bobbly surface that was being used as a football pitch, remembering that T&T struggle to play their passing game. With the pitch in a much better state at the Hang Day I figured T&T’s quality would finally show against the reigning league champions.
I’d decided on the shade of the ‘main’ stand, purchasing a ticket to sit in the lower tier with the younger T&T fans, those individually clad in official player shirts; I assume handed to them after games or when they visit the training sessions. I still opted for a loose plain shirt, seeing as I have a good ten years on these guys and my very own replica shirt is a little figure hugging at the moment (more gym time needed!)
Loitering around outside the ground, generally waiting to see if anything interesting would happen, hoping that Da Nang would inspire another 15,000 fans to appear as happened when SLNA visited, I received a text message from VTV. It was my new friend Tung and his cameraman, “are you at the game? Lets meet”. I was on my own and slightly bored so I agreed to meet. It was time for my non-existent acting skills to come in to play. I’d not acted since strangely landing a joint lead role at Primary school aged 9.
I was required to wander along the street passing many fans, hand my ticket in to be inspected and pass on through the gate. No Problem. Next the same entry needed to be performed once again, with the camera inside the stadium this time. The bemused policeman let me out and in again. No problem. Then on to finding a seat. I began feeling rather uncomfortable with everyone inside now watching the sweaty foreigner. In my haste I plonked myself down on the closest seat. The nearest fans were at least 10 seats from me; with nothing else in my immediate vicinity the remaining shots will be of this lonesome foreign guy who seems to have stumbled in to an empty stadium! I think there’s an interview to be filmed and then its airing time.
As for the game, it wasn’t much better than my acting skills. T&T once again looked technically better than their opponents, but without really threatening too much. Samson had an early chance and there was a clear shout for a penalty when a DaNang defended nearly ripped Gonzalo’s shirt off in the area, only for the referee to somehow miss it. Half time came, 0-0. I was concerned because neither team looked good, especially DaNang, who could only get better. The looming figure of Merlo in attack for the visitors was obviously a threat.
HaNoi’s midfield lynchpin Sy Cuong was suspended, which effected T&T’s grip on the game in the second half as plenty of possession again led to few chances and spaces began to appear for the visiting players. It was in fact the lumbering Merlo, quiet for most of the game, skillful but not the fittest player, who made the decisive breakthrough on 73’ minutes. A cut back and a neat finish ensured his 9th goal of the season, 0-1. DaNang then introduced the Serbian attacking midfielder Milorad, who in turn killed off HaNoi with a neat finish, 0-2. Tacticall, Le Huynh Duc the DaNang manager, was spot on; soaking up pressure, hoping not to concede and pouncing late on. The home fans belief was gone, even after Van Quyet pulled an injury time goal back, the game was well and truly over. 1-2.
I noticed early on in the season that the position of striker is often over populated with ‘overseas’ players in the Vleague, currently 13 from 15 of the top scorers are ‘overseas’ players. Vietnam is represented with SLNA’s leading goal scorer and national icon Le Cong Vinh (13) and Binh Duong’s Nguyen Anh Duc (8). The return of Hong Quan Mac to Thanh Hoa (from Sparta Prague II) will surely add to this list in the future, but overall there seems to be a huge preference for overseas players. I guess the teams’ owners want to see instant success, classy foreign players and lots of goals.
Some of the overseas inclusions are good complete players, who add a unique dimension to the game here (take Gonzalo for example; a big man upfront who holds and distributes the ball well, while also having a great eye for goal), many have great individual skill and know where the goal is but contribute little else to their respective teams. I’ve seen this in visiting teams many times, where the two overseas strikers seem to be a mini team within a team, not aware of their teammates.
I pushed a local fan on the inclusion of so many foreign strikers in the Vleague, wondering how/where the Vietnamese strikers get to gain playing time . “This can’t be good for the national team” I said.
The sighed response:
“A weak buffalo is better than a strong cow”
HaNoi T&T 1 v 2 DaNang
Van Quyet 90’