Two draws in row and Becamex Binh Duong next up for Ha Noi, a team who had themselves demolished T&T 3-1 at home earlier in the season and I was not feeling too optimistic about the days outcome. This was until I opened my emails to find a message from the brother of T&T midfielder Nguyen Ngoc Duy. The central midfielder has become impressed that I’ve followed his team throughout Vietnam and wished to give me his match shirt in gratitude. This was amazing news, and I was obviously delighted by this (see big cheesy smile below). This is the same player I bumped in to in both Pleiku and more recently the Mekong Delta. The news of course brought enthusiasm rushing back for the day; I was to meet Nguyễn Hoàng Trường prior to kick off.
I met Truong and his friend Long, who would work as a translator, but was also a huge T&T fan. Pleasantries were exchanged, the obligatory photos taken and it was arranged that I would sit with them for the game. The 17th game of the season and I was invited in with this younger, non-paid, group of fans. I say non-paid, as I’ve heard rumours the ‘other’ older fans in the opposite stand have their expenses covered by the owner, hence they’re able to visit a few away games.
I was excited to have been asked to join the fans, this is their club, Hanoi T&T is a young club, formed in 2006, but already has a decent history and this enthusiastic group of younger fans (mainly University students) will hopefully be the start of a larger following for T&T in years to come. It would be a deafening experience as I was soon beckoned to join Truong and Long, right next to their huge drum.
Skipper and central defender Cristiano was suspended after picking up a yellow card against Sai Gon, so it was striker Gonzalo who partnered Van Bien at the back. Was the previous week a cunning tactical decision from Hung, knowing that Cristiano would soon be banned and to give Gonzalo some practice in defence? I was worried; the Becamex Binh Duong attackers had previously torn Ha Noi apart in their 3-1 win.
However it was Ha Noi who started very quickly and took the lead through a neat finish by Van Hieu (2’), with it the crowd were instantly behind the team. Samson (24’) playing in the lone central strikers role was again excelling, soon making it 2-0 after a great through ball from Ngoc Duy, the striker raced clear to comfortably beat the advancing Santos. T&T were cruising, I was already hopeful of yet another Ha Noi goal fest. Things were going well for T&T; Gonzalo and Van Bien looked very composed in defence, especially with the Argentines strength and endeavor. Even when Tan Tuan (45’) pulled a goal back for Binh Duong on the stroke of halftime, it felt this was T&T’s day. Half time 2-1.
Binh Duong came quickly at Hanoi as the second half began and were awarded a penalty after just 2 minutes, Long Chino (my translator from earlier) turns to me and grins, “I hope he hits the sky”, I wonderful saying that I’m sure to use in the future, and he wasn’t far off as Philani blasted the ball against the bar! This was a let off and Hanoi T&T began playing there free flowing football, or as my new friend Long Chino grinningly stated “HaNoi play sexy football”.
Hanoi were again two goals to the good when Samson (62’) bagged his second of the afternoon. A wonderful cross from Thanh Luong was headed home for Samson’s 13 league goal of the season. 3-1. Coach Phan Thanh Hung then began making a few changes, deciding to finally give some squad players a chance to prove themselves. Among them was Sam Ngoc Duc, an exciting young full back and then Bao Khanh (the player I’m often told is ‘very old’, he’s 34, not quite Roger Miller) was introduced for Thanh Luong. Clearly Bao Khnah (91’) was a great player, for both club and country, often very composed and skillful on the ball and he added a fourth in injury time with a wonderfully placed shot in to the far corner from the edge of the box. He was clearly delighted, as were his team mates in what was a fitting end to a good victory.
Ha Noi T&T 4 v 1 Becamex Binh Duong
Van Hieu 2
Tan Tuan 45’
Bao khanh 90’