Vleague fixtures were disrupted by the impending visit of Manchester City to face the National on Monday 27th. This meant Thanh Hóa were in town for a Thursday night fixture. Thanh Hóa moved to the top of the Vleague last week, while T&T’s impressive form also continued. This was going to be a cracker.
I arrived (somewhat deliberately) early; planning on checking out a newish bia hoi that had popped up among the cafes that line the back streets of the stadium. An hour and a half before kick-off and the streets were filled with Yellow shirts. The Thanh Hoa yellow more prominent than that of T&T.
A few beers later and I realised those that also packed this little watering hole were not attending the match and just settling in a a few hours of drinking. I paid up. US$0.35 per glass. The bia didn’t help with the heat. I was still pouring with sweat.
I was stopped at the top of the stairs to the terrace. Son, the Contras leader, disappointingly inform me I was late. I’m wasn’t, it’s only 5.50pm. Quang, another fan I met previously grabbed me, “where shall we sit? It’s too noisy to sit with them, how can we talk?”. I felt l was in for some free English practice.
Hai, an older fan then grabs me. “Today you stand with us, Thanh Hoa have strong support, we need you today”. Oh shit, why did I have so many $0.30 glasses of beer. “I’m waiting for friends!” I retorted.
My friends arrived and Quang clung on. Son has had enough and had more important things to deal with, like choreographing the revealing of yet another huge banner (this time welcoming home former players Duy Nam and Sy Cuong), while Hai, probably more drunk than me, wandered off into the sea of yellow flags.
Like a true awkward Englishman I sit, not with either group, yet right in the middle, behind the tunnel, which obscured my view slightly. I didn’t move. I’m overwhelmed. And Quang kept probing.
T&T pressured from the start. I commented to my friend, “this new Victor guy doesn’t look all that”. 87 minutes later and he was easily man of the match. The Spaniard also opened the scoring after some great build up work from Gonzalo and Van Quyet.
Gonzalo then doubled the score, firing low into the corner. The enthusiastic travelling support were silenced. The Contras threw their Conical hats in the air. A minute before the break and Van Quyet seemed to seal the match with an exquisite chip over the onrushing Thanh Hoa keeper. Half – time and 3-0 up; the fans around us collapsed in their own sweat (and maybe some of their friends) and hydrated before the second half began.
The second half inevitably dropped off in pace, as the game effectively over. That was until Le Quoc Phuong pulled one back for the visitors, sparking belief in the fans from Thanh Hóa Province.
This seemed to rattle the home side. Hanoi raised the tempo instantly and just four minutes later Gonzalo killed off all hope of Thanh Hóa comeback with his second and easily the goal of the match with a blistering volley into the top corner.
This was great football, possibly the best I’d seen at the Hang Day Stadium all season. The title charge is certainly back on. HaNoi T& T are now just 6 points off the top with 8 to play. I’m regretting sending my passport in early to obtain a new visa and not delaying so I could travel south to Dong Nai.
Next up it’s the dubious affair of money grabbing Manchester City visiting the National stadium (taking on a National side backed by money grabbing SHB sponsors)
Hà Nội T&T 4 – 1 FLC Thanh Hóa
Victor Ormazabal 24′ Lê Quốc Phương (19) 61′
Gonzalo 30′ 65′
Nguyễn Văn Quyết 44′