National Cup in Vietnam Sees Eight Reduced To Four

After all the excitement surrounding the first-legs of the last eight in Vietnam, it’s top stuff that the second-legs show up so quickly. I am, of course, referring to the National Cup. Eight had to become four and while some of them already looked like done deals, others were not. Let me guide you through what happened yesterday as some dreams were shattered and others were kept alive. As you should be getting used to now, we’ll go through each of the games in chronological order for impartiality reasons.

Binh Phuoc Needed To Score First

Binh Phuoc had to score first to stand any real chance of getting back in the tie against Thanh Hoa. in case it’s slipped your mind, the first-leg finished 2-0 to the V-League side. They had two golden opportunities, almost identical in fact, within four minutes of one another in the first-half. On each occasion, the ball was whipped in from the left and headed off-target. Once is just about acceptable. Twice? Not at all. Especially not considering circumstances.

Three minutes after Binh Phuoc’s second miss, Vũ Minh Tuấn made them pay when he put Thanh Hoa 1-0 up. He remained calm when others would’ve have panicked after finding the ball at his feet in the penalty area. Instead of rushing it, he took a touch and put it straight in the onion bag. Binh Phuoc now needed to score four to progress. Ha.

With twenty-five minutes left on the clock, a comeback didn’t look overly forthcoming. However, when a header crashed off the frame of the goal, it was evident they weren’t giving up just yet. Another two minutes had been and gone and Binh Phuoc went close again. A shot from the edge of the area went agonisingly past the post, although in reality, the keeper probably had it covered.

Binh Phuoc did eventually get a deserved goal via Trương Văn Tuấn. He evaded the Thanh Hoa defenders brilliantly before placing the ball in the bottom right-hand corner. There were fifteen minutes left. Surely not? In a word, no. Binh Phuoc’s attention now turns back to Division One where they are yet to win. Probably a good time to start, eh lads?

Final score: Binh Phuoc 1-1 Thanh Hoa (Aggregate: Binh Phuoc 1-3 Thanh Hoa).

Game two of the National Cup takes us to Nghe An where Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA to you and me) hosted Da Nang. Despite Da Nang’s late onslaught on Friday, they went into this game as a rank outsider after losing 3-1 at home. If that is the case and you’ve got to score three times away from home, what’s the one thing you don’t want to do? Concede early. Da Nang’s defence had other ideas as they let Phan Văn Đức have all the room in the world. He couldn’t miss with his header. Bang. 1-0.

Da Nang Didn’t Threaten Until It Was Too Late

In all honesty, this didn’t change Da Nang’s remit as if they scored three goals, they would force the game to extra-time. Out of the two sides, it was SLNA, the current National Cup champions, who looked the more threatening. A combination of good goalkeeping and the woodwork kept Da Nang in the tie, albeit by a very thin thread. Da Nang only woke up in the last ten minutes and truth be told, they deserved what they got from this. nothing.

Hồ Tuấn Tài added to his brace in the first-leg with a late goal to seal SLNA’s progression and in all fairness, it gave the scoreline a truer reflection as well.

Final score: SLNA 2-0 Da Nang (Aggregate: SLNA 5-1 Da Nang).

Onto the game now which yielded a ‘shock’ result in the first-leg. Not many expected Becamex Binh Duong to topple Sanna Khanh Hoa in the first. I did. I’m not saying I’m a genius or anything like that, but my IQ is four figures. Have some of that. As was the case in the other two games that I’ve already touched on, the first goal in this one was crucial.

Someone Should Call The Emergency Services ‘Cos Becamex Are On Fire

Luckily, Nguyễn Anh Đức was in the right place at the right time to head home a raking cross-field ball. One-nil to the good guys. That was the only goal of the opening period which meant that the second-half was on a knife-edge. Sanna Khanh Hoa were more than capable of scoring twice which would see them through. The first fifteen minutes went by without incident.

When the clock hit the 64th minute, we did have some action. GOAL. ROMARIOOOO. The flying Dutchman was left totally unattended, much like a dangerous rucksack, and tapped home from only yards out. 2-0 on the day, 3-0 on aggregate. Binh Duong were going to Wembley! Shit. Wrong country. Moving swiftly on…

Hồ Sỹ Giáp scored the goal of the round. There’s no point in having a discussion about it. He picked the ball up inside his own half, skipped past three Sanna Khanh Hoa defenders and put it beyond the keeper. Think of Maradona in ‘86. It wasn’t quite as good as that, it was certainly up there, though. 3-0. Game, set & match.

After Hồ Sỹ Giáp’s goal, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was that. I certainly did. WRONG. Binh Duong, moreover Nguyễn Anh Đức, had a chance to make it four from the spot, his weak penalty was saved though. After that, there was still time for a penalty to be awarded down the other end. Hoàng Nhật Nam made no such mistake as his spot-kick arrowed into the top corner. In hindsight, it’s a good job it didn’t go to penalties as we’d probably be saying goodbye to Binh Duong rather than Sanna Khanh Hoa.

Final score: Becamex Binh Duong 3-1 Sanna Khanh Hoa (Aggregate: Becamex Binh Duong 4-1 Sanna Khanh Hoa).

Ha Noi is our last stop on the National Cup round-up bus as my tip for the tournament HAGL travelled to face a Ha Noi side who the majority of other people fancied. There was absolutely nothing to split the sides in the first-leg in Pleiku as a 2-2 draw favoured Ha Noi rather than HAGL as they scored the all-important away goals.

Ha Noi Left It Late To Progress

After a goalless first half in the capital, HAGL came flying out the traps and broke the deadlock through Nguyễn Văn Toàn. He latched on to a magnificent through pass, took one touch to control the ball and beat the keeper with his second. That certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. We now had a game on our hands.

As the game entered its final ten minutes, Ha Noi got a corner on the left-hand side. Inswinger. GOLLLL. Nguyễn Thành Chung rose unchallenged to head home. 1-1. As it stood, Ha Noi were going through on away goals. Sadly, there was no late drama which meant that away goals did have a deciding role in one of the National Cup games.

Final score: Ha Noi 1-1 HAGL (Aggregate: Ha Noi 3-3 HAGL – Ha Noi progress on away goals).

There you have it. Our National Cup semi-finalists are Ha Noi, Becamex Binh Duong, Song Lam Nghe An & Thanh Hoa. We could well have a repeat of last year’s final when SLNA battered Binh Duong over two-legs. There would be a score to settle for sure. Here is the draw for the semi-finals…

National Cup Draw

I’m staying on the Binh Duong bandwagon. If anyone can knock Ha Noi out, they can. Just a shame we have to wait until fucking September to find out.

Until the next time.