Local derby time as Hải Phòng travelled to the capital to face Hà Nội T&T. In my short experience of the V League this fixtures has always been eagerly anticipated and over the last 5 games has seen 24 goals scored, 22 cautions and 2 red cards.
Arriving early, very early in fact, to experience the rare sight of fans arriving at the Hang Day I was pleased to see a few more home fans than normal. Even my little band of foreigners swelled to six, with an additional two that looked like they had stumbled in from a night out at Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. I was excited! Hải Phòng looked to have around 1,800 fans with them, many clad in their traditional red shirts.
After the dismal game south at Binh Duong last week I was looking forward this one; Hải Phòng had risen to the dizzying heights of fourth place, while T&T welcomed back Samson and were in desperate need of a few goals.
The first half was electric as T&T took the game to a stunned Hải Phòng; wave after wave of attack reminded me of the brilliance of the 2013 team. But then the game swung in tremendous fashion has the visitors carved out two great chances. On 18 minutes Hồng Sơn made an incredible fingertip save to push Quốc Trung’s effort on to the inside of the post. Just moments later Hải Phòng attacked again, this time inform striker Errol Stevens beat Hồng Sơn only to find T&T central defender, Cyrus, had remarkably chased back to head the ball over the bar. Incredible defending.
T&T responded as Nguyễn Ngọc Duy forced Nguyễn Thanh Thắng in to a fine save with a near post header before Nguyễn Văn Biển saw his header thunder off of the underside of the bar and cleared to safety.
Moments before the break Cyrus was caught by a late tackle from Vũ Ngọc Thịnh, angered but rather than retaliate, the T&T defender sarcastically hugged the Hai Phong player. A fantastic reaction which enraged the opposition player. Tensions were building.
Great V League entertainment, with the young and old fans of T&T making plenty of noise as the teams entered the break all square.
Just three minutes in to the second half Jamaican, Errol Stevens, silenced the boisterous home fans with a powerful near post header to give Hải Phòng the Lead. The next 20 minutes or so failed to reach the pace of the first half.
Ha Noi T&T’s commitment finally paid off when Samson rose unmarked to head beyond Thanh Thắng for the equalizer. The goal silenced the visiting party that had begun in the far corner of the Hang Day Stadium, where flares and streamer had been set off.
Excitement levels rose again, T&T pushed while Hai Phong kept attacking on the break. With only minutes to go Ha Noi were denied a blatant spot kick after Le Van Phu clearly handled in the box. 4,000 people saw it, apart from the referee.
Possibly feeling guilty for his mistake the referee blew deep in to injury time as Samson appeared to be tripped just inside the box. Penalty!! Samson didn’t stepp up for what would surely be the last kicked of the game, a kick to seal the derby win and reignite Hanoi’s season.
The responsibility fell to Nguyễn Ngọc Duy, an experienced penalty taker. His weak low shot to the keepers right was parried and the midfielder hit his follow-up in to the ground and the ball ricochet over the bar! As Duy lay on the floor the referee blew for full time. T&T were devastated, while Hải Phòng ‘s players and fans celebrated.
A great game and a great advert for the intensity the V League can produce. Although I’m desperately concerned about Hà Nội ’s dip in form. Next up: Away day at the beach against newly promoted Sanna Khánh Hòa BVN
Hà Nội T&T 1-1 Hải Phòng
Samson (39) 76′ Stevens (10) 48′
Hàng Đẫy stadium: 4,000