Hải Phòng away is the biggest Derby match Hà Nội T&T have, and this year there was a little extra spice with Hải Phòng leading the table and T&T second, just two point behind. I’d been looking forward to this was a quite a while ,as due to scheduling I’d not been to the Lạch Tray stadium since 2013.
There’s a new highway that has reduced the time from the capital to the port city but I’d never taken that particular train route. We,Marc & is friend Kevin, met early for some Pho Ga before boarding the 9am train from the tiny Long Bien train station. For most the journey was very relaxing, but I drew the short straw and had a 10 year kid who seemed jacked up on redbull bouncing around in the seat next to me while he played various casino games on his phone. It’s no wonder his parents were sat at the other end of the carriage.
Like most cities/towns outside of Hanoi and Saigon finding something to eat after 1pm is not going to happen (unless you want Lotteria or KFC). Our hands were tied, we’d have to settle for beer. A couple of ice cold Sapporo’s at ‘Fantasy Beer club’ was followed by a quick tour of the Cathedral while we searched for another pub, or preferably a brewery. Big Man Brewery, a favourite of ours, was in ruins, all that remained was the sign while the building had been gutted. Fortunately Marc was knew Bia Hoi style brewery opposite the stadium. Beers, food and even some atmosphere. We were ready for the game.
T&T had brought their largest way contingent to date, 200-250 at a guess. Everyone was excited. The Contras were now thriving on away trips: flags, flares and face paints. A decent home crowd had filled the two main stands, while we were once again in the curve by the corner flag exposed to the elements (this is not just limited to the weather; Hai Phòng hate Hanoi and last time I was here we were pelted with bags/bottles of water, flip-flops and even a pack of biscuits).
T&T started brightly, with Gonzalo reverting back to striker and linking up superbly with Samson. Early on Samson brought out a fine save from Dang Van Lam who tipped his effort on to the bar. Moments later Dung Hung floated a high ball in and Gonzalo chested it down for Samson, who buried his left foot effort low into the corner of the net. T&T were going top of the V League for the first time this season! The goal was greeted by bad weather, which forced the Contras into an impromptu Conga in the downpour. Gonzalo nearly doubled the lead with a thunderous effort from 30 yards that went narrowly wide.
Hai Phòng coach, Trương Việt Hoàng, must have had some strong words at the break as Hai Phòng came out considerably more organised and disciplined. They realised the threat of Gonzalo with both centre halves challenging the Argentine for every high ball. Le Van Phu was particularly impressive in defence. T&T were still the better team. Unfortunately statistics do lie in football. After some good work by Le Van Thang the ball fell to Đình Bảo who equalised. Since the suspension of Stevens and Fagan, Nguyễn Đình Bảo now has 3 goals in his last 2 appearances.
Every touch by the home side was now greeted with a huge roar from the home terrace. Still playing better, Hanoi were somehow struggling to find their rhythm. Hai Phòng buoyed by the occasion took the lead when Le Van Phu done well to head a deep corner back into the box and Đình Bảo’s effort was touched home by Lê Xuân Hùng.
T&T continued to push forward and Van Quyet forced Dang Van Lam in to another fine save and Gonzalo couldn’t direct the fast rebound on target. Things then got worse when Gonzalo received a straight red card for an elbow on Lê Xuân Hùng. An inevitable suspension that really may dent T&T’s title challenge with a tricky trip to Quang Nam coming up.
Samson nearly salvaged a appoint for T&T when his close range effort was incredibly kept out by the Hai Phòng defence, who were throwing themselves in front of everything.
A T&T win would have seen us a point clear at the top of the V League, instead, Hai Phòng now have a 5 point lead with 6 games remaining. .
Despite the closure of Big Man Brewery, the result, the weather at the match, Gonzalo’s red card, being ripped off in a dodgy cab back in Hanoi, then ruining my trainers as I waded through foot deep flooded alleyways to get home, it was a decent away trip.
Evidence that beer does make things seem better.
Next: A home tie against Can Tho. Gonzalo got a 2 match suspension. Can Tho’s Oseni will also miss the match due to suspension.
Hải Phòng 2- 1 Hà Nội T&T
Nguyễn Đình Bảo 60’ Samson 35’
Lê Xuân Hùng 80’
Lạch Tray Stadium: 9,000