Even after the minor blip of a goalless draw at lowly Dong Nai, confidence has been high around the Hang Day stadium recently. The introduction of Victor has settle the balance through the middle, while Thanh Hào has started to form a decent partnership with Van Bien in central defence. The Contras keep growing i n numbers and had again set about obtaining more paraphernalia, this time in the form of three impressive large flags.
Hai Phong, once known to have the fiercest hooligans in the country, bring an edgy element to the match day experience,and they especially dislike Hanoi. When Arsenal play at Spurs it seems to bring out the old faces, hardened fans who can’t stay away from the big derby games. Had I been in Hanoi 10 years ago in the days of The Cong i’m sure I’d be saying the same. the terrace, filled with people i’m familiar with, seemed to have adopted a few more,rather hard looking chaps in plain clothes, not sporting the free yellow T&T shirt which is a requirement for a member, They looked edgy, making a lot of phone calls.
The Contras were again in fine form, with choreographed flag waving and chanting. But the noise from the older fans drowned them out. The drums were being hit harder and faster. tHe atmosphere was brewing nicely. As the players entered the field flares went off in the Hai Phong section, the 2000 travelling support were up for this. Then a flare went off to my right, from the Contras. The stadium filled with smoke. This was electric. Game on!
Some don’t like flares, and they can be dangerous. However, watching the players enter through thick smoke and a hundred or so yellow T&T flags, all while the drums were beaten voraciously was something special. A few minutes like I never seen in the Hang Day stadium.
The game couldn’t have begun better for Hanoi; somehow, from 30 yards out and on his way down, Gonzalo struck a perfect low dipping shot in to the far corner of the Hai Phong net after just 3 minutes. The away fans were stunned and Hai Phong defence were shaken, looking disorganized and lacking in any real physical strength.
Gonzalo doubled the lead 4 minutes before the break, when a through ball confused the defence and Gonzalo race (term used loosely, maybe strolled) clear and exquisitely placed the ball in the far corner. The badge was kissed. Will Gonzalo be the next T&T legend?
Hai Phong started living up to their reputation and were losing discipline; kicking players off the ball, late tackles and arguing every freekick. Half time. 2-0.
This was great stuff; I had to find my friend Hai amongst the older fans. We greeted each other with huge smiles and a high five. He laughed, ‘Hai Phong might get angry outside, be careful”, unlike the younger fans who had warned me on a few occasions, he had a certain cheeky defiant grin across his face. I liked Hai even more after this. He then proceeded to try to marry me off to a very boisterous female Hanoi fan.
At 2-0 I was confident I was off to Wembley (metaphorically speaking, the final is actually at the home of one of the finalists). Quan was more sceptical, “only 2-0, it’s not over yet”. He was right, T&T had thrown away plenty of leads before.
They didn’t need to capitulate though, playing on the front foot right from kick-off, with Nguyễn Đại Đồng (in for the absent Van Bien) and Thanh Hào comfortably subduing Hai Phong Striker Errol Stevens, it was the visiting keeper who literally threw it away. A high looping miskick from a T&T corner should have been a routine catch, when sudenly Nguyễn Văn Nam spilled the ball in to his own net. Roars of laughter and cheers rose around the Hang Day.
The Hai Phong fans, pretty quiet throughout decided they should let a few more flares off for good measure. Another then came from the older T&T fans. The police have been told to get them quick, yet clearly not on how to extinguish them, as smoke billowed from two stairwells for quite some time.
Nguyen Ngoc Duy grabbed T&T’s fourth with a fine finish before Nguyễn Văn Quyết grabbed a fifth. The young striker is in blistering form and after setting up numerou chances for his teammates took is goal with another great chipped over the onrushing keeper. Thats now 7 goals in his last 6 games,This type of from from Văn Quyết will surely raise a few eyebrows in some neighbouring leagues and possibly Japan.
Văn Quyết could have made it six after rounding the keeper only to see his effort cleared off the line with the last kick of the game. An incredible performance again from Hà Nội T&T, who will now travel to Saigon to face league & cup holders Becamex Bình Dương. National Cup final, plus an away day, all on my birthday…can’t wait!…. see you next month Saigon.
Hà Nội T&T 5 – 0 Hải Phòng
Gonzalo 3′ – 41′,
Nguyễn Văn Nam (OG 63′,
Nguyễn Văn Quyết 76′,
Nguyễn Ngọc Duy 78′
sân Hàng Đẫy:3,000