The big game took place now nearly two weeks back, so this post is a little late due to a new job, a house move and travel commitments. SLNA were back in Hanoi, the ‘people’s’ team from Nghe An Province, some 6 hours away. As scheduling would have it, due to this being a rearranged fixture, the two teams would face off back-to-back over the next 8 days.
Last year saw a huge crowd of 20,000 plus visiting fans and rumours were circulating early that a large number would again be in attendance. I’d finally managed to drag Lisa back to the Hang Day, but even after weeks of effort I was still unable to convince others to share in the VLeague experience.
We had to sit closer than normal due to the larger crowd, which gave me a chance to see Le Cong Vinh, undoubtedly the most famous Vietnamese player, up close. As the teams entered the pitch, the noisy away fans set the tone for an interesting afternoon.
Quang Tinh gave the visitors the lead after 16 minutes, catching the T&T defence flat-footed and sending the 7,000 traveling fans wild. Le Cong Vinh was showing good movement but it was SLNA’s Romanian striker, Voinea, that was causing the Ha Noi defence most problems.
But T&T have Samson, still in great form, who equalized 6 minutes before the break, notching his 19 league goal of the season, not bad for a player that’s missed 4 games through suspension.
Despite the equalizer it was SLNA that seemed the likelier to win the match though. And, the team from Vinh City, were back in front on 58’ minutes when Ngoc Hai fired in from 25 yards out.
T&T tried to rally, with Hector particularly impressing with driving runs forward but SLNA were resolute and could have further extended their lead.
One thing Hanoi does well though is keep going to the last whistle. Today was no different. Van Thanh, a young striker with an eye for goal was introduced. The home crowd was actually on their feet encouraging wave after wave of attack from T&T. A minute in to injury time Van Thanh scored again, silencing the away fans and sending the SLNA players crashing to the floor.
The champions will feel robbed after Gonzalo saw his headed effort not given, even though the ball had clearly crossed the line.
There was still time and Hanoi could have grabbed the points, as the last kick of the game saw an in-swinging freekick from the right come crashing off the bar.
The SLNA players dropped to their knees at the final whistle, having worked so hard to nearly gain an impressive win. The T&T players stood around, frustrated, also having come so close, albeit in the dying moments.
Vinh Stadium, satuday 19th July, another draw.
The return game in Vinh City took place on Saturday afternoon, clashing with the arrival of a friend from the UK. I wouldn’t be making the journey south.
For the second match in a row, Van Cuong deputized in goal for Hong Son. Casting my mind back to last season I remember Hong Son (among others) also opting not to play in these fixtures against SLNA. It seems if you hail from Nghe An province it’s not acceptable to play against the team. With top players opting to sit out some games, maybe this is another reason why fans struggle to get behind the VLeague.
This time it was SLNA’s turn to snatch a late equalizer. Samson had put Hanoi in front, only for Le Cong Vinh to snatch a late goal to deny T&T three points. The result means Binh Duong now have daylight at the top of the table with just 3 games remaining.
Hà Nội T&T 2-2 Sông Lam Nghệ An
Samson 39′ Nguyễn Quang Tình (17) 16′
Phạm Văn Thành 90’+1 Quế Ngọc Hải (4) 58′
12/07/2014 Hàng Đẫy: 8,000
Sông Lam Nghệ An 1-1 Hà Nội T&T
Lê Công Vinh 88′ Samson 14′
19/07/2014 sân Vinh: 14,000