Hanoi T&T returned home after their defeat last week in the Central highlands to face Sông Lam Nghệ An . Both teams were looking to get back on track, Nghệ An with just 1 win in 5 and T&T suffering their first defeat in 8 last week against HAGL. SLNA had only won once on the road all season, and although that was an impressive victory at champions Bình Dương, T&T would have been confident of secure a first ‘double’ over their rivals.
I’d managed to get back in time, leaving the central Highlands the morning after that defeat and heading home to Hanoi, via Laos. Unfortunately the league in Laos was on their mid-season break, so no games for me, but a quick visit to the the Anouvong stadium was possible.
SLNA are notorious for their large travelling support. Bizarrely the attendances at their away matches are higher than their home fixtures, having played in front of an averaged 10,000 while on the road, their home average is just 5,588. In particular, an estimated 8,000 SLNA fans filled both ends of the Thong Nhat stadium for their recent fixture against Sài Gòn FC, where the home team averages just 1,000 per game.
Excited by the potential of a large crowd I arrived early, expecting us to have been moved from our usual terrace B into the main stand. The last three seasons have seen SLNA attract crowds of 15,000, 8,000 & 20,000. But, in line with the current VLeague trend, the numbers are dropping. The Contras would stay in their normal location as SLNA were only bringing 3-4,000. We’ve recently discussed this on the Hanoi Football Show Podcast and are left a bit bewildered as to why the crowds are dropping after a promising start. The Euros have ended, the EPL hasn’t started, there’s been no controversies (yet) and the goals keep coming, yet the fans have started to stay away. Maybe it’s the crazy hot summer and the early (4-6pm kick off times).
The Contras (T&T supporter group) had also swelled for the game and we crowded on the terrace. The sun was setting, meaning it struck us directly. At nearly 40C it seems to make absolutely zero difference when games should kick off. Today was 6pm and the sweat poured off us, the three foreign fans struggling at the back of the noisy youngsters.
T&T began brightly, buoyed by the noisy support and Văn Quyết nearly opened the scoring after 5 minutes when Đỗ Hùng Dũng squared but Trần Nguyên Mạnh was equal to the low effort. Gonzalo & Samson both came close, each time supplied by the superb Văn Quyết.
It was all T&T until Odah Marshall latched on to a through ball, but his left foot effort was comfortably saved by the recalled Trần Anh Đức in the T&T goal.
Sầm Ngọc Đức, back after suspension, played in a lovely cross which Samson took down beautifully only to see his low effort go wide of the post. A frantic first 25 minutes to the game.
A lapse in the T&T defence saw Salia race clear and bearing down on the T&T goal. His well struck effort was tipped on to the bar by Trần Anh Đức and T&T escaped goalless at the break.
The breakthrough final came after 65’, when another great delivery from Văn Quyết was knocked down by Gonzalo to Đỗ Hùng Dũng. The midfielder smashed his shot into the ground and the ball subsequently bounced up and beyond Nguyên Mạnh, sneaking in off the post.
In true useless Hanoi Football Show predictions fashion, I turned to Marc and said “this is why SLNA are near the bottom, they can’t come back from a goal down and always crumble. We’ll hit 3 or 4 now”.
Hanoi T&T, jinxed by me, had keeper’ Trần Anh Đức to thank for the 3 points. SLNA piled on the pressure in the closing stages but were denied by the young Keeper who pulled off two fine saves and ensured T&T maintained the pace with table topping Hải Phòng.
Next up: Hanoi T&T host rock bottom Đồng Tháp (29/July), while Viettel welcome TP HCMC, who can effectively seal the VLeague 2 title (at Hang Day stadium, 30/July)
Hà Nội T&T 1-0 Sông Lam Nghệ An
Đỗ Hùng Dũng 68′
Hàng Đẫy stadium: 8,000