One of the beauties of working for this site as opposed to just an ISL one like I was doing previously means I can bring you the latest from where I currently reside, Vietnam. I used to do a bit on it before for another site, but you know how it goes, certain sites will change your content and your title which can be annoying. Never mind.
The Second Division Is Actually The Third Division
In Vietnam, the top league is called V-League or V-League 1 dependant on who you speak to, the second division is called V-League 2 and the third division is called the second division which just confuses the matter further.
On the whole, it will be the V-League that is covered, although, I will give you snippets from the other two divisions as well. We’ve come in at a really good time as the V-League has only had six-game weeks so far so there is plenty of football coming in the future which is wonderful news.
V-League 2 has only just started with the majority having played two games. There is one game still to be played in the second round of fixtures, Ha Noi II vs Long An, which takes place on the 8th of May. We’ll bring you that first.
We’re Just In Time As The 2nd Division Starts On Wednesday
Further down the pyramid, the second division actually kicks off on Wednesday, so we’re well placed to cover that in its entirety. We’ll take each game as it comes regarding that lower two divisions, nonetheless, there’s an awful lot of football to get stuck into it and who doesn’t love a bit of football?
If the answer to that is no, then you’re in the wrong place. Bye for now.
Right, just to give you some understanding as to how all of this will work, normally, I will take in one game over the weekend so naturally, that’ll be the game I bring you the most information on.
On certain occasions, I’ll get to a game on a Saturday and a Sunday, although, due to the sheer size of Vietnam, that isn’t always possible. Before we take a look at the action from the games just gone, let me bring you up to speed with how the league table is looking.
Ha Noi Are In Pole Position
Ha Noi sit prettily at the top of the table with an unbeaten record and only two goals conceded, so at the moment, they look like the team to stop. It seems they’re leaving nothing to chance as they lost the title on the last day of last season.
Than Quang Ninh and Sanna Khanh Hoa sit second and third respectively, within touching distance of Ha Noi, quite what Sanna Khanh Hoa are doing that far up is a mystery to me as when I saw them earlier in the season, they were atrocious.
At the other end of the fourteen team league, newly promoted Nam Dinh are rooted to the bottom of the table with only a point to their name which came on the opening day. Since then, they’ve lost all five games they’ve played. Not good.
Things Don’t Look Good For Nam Dinh
Sai Gon sit above them with five points from five games and they occupy the relegation play-off place which has come into effect from this season. I’ll go through the other teams when we look at their games. Let’s get involved.
We’ll begin in central Vietnam where Song Lam Nghe An ‘entertained’ Becamex Binh Duong on Friday in what was a repeat of last year’s Vietnamese Cup final. I’ve put the word entertained due to the fact that it ended goalless which is rather surprising when you consider the two-legged final finished 7-2 to Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA) on aggregate.
In hindsight, it was never going to be a classic this time around as both sides languish in the wrong half of the table with pretty much identical, mediocre records. At least SLNA have got the AFC Cup to focus on.
We’ll Brush Over The First Game
There isn’t much to write home about regarding this game, so we’ll just brush over it and move on. SLNA 0-0 Becamex Binh Duong.
Friday’s other game saw FLC Thanh Hoa, who also find themselves in the wrong half of the table, host this season’s surprise package, Can Tho. Thanh Hoa were part of the epic finale to the V-League which meant that four teams could still win the league going into the final day. This season they’ve looked a shadow of the side that they were last season as going into this game they sat six points off the pace.
In complete contrast, Can Tho were only saved last season by how bad Long An were, so to see them in the top half is a bit of a shock, to say the least.
In the first-half, it was one-way traffic as Thanh Hoa looked to kick-start their season and Ryutaro Karube in the middle of the park was pulling all the strings as he was laying on chances left, right and centre for Pape Faye & Co, yet, when the referee sounded his whistle for half-time, somehow, the scoreline was still yet to be broken.
No Keeper In The World Was Saving That
Early in the second-half, it was all change though as a clumsy challenge from Le Duc Loc gave Pape Faye the chance to put Thanh Hoa in the lead from the penalty spot. I’ll level with you, I don’t think any keeper in the world would’ve saved it.
Even if Pape had gone “I’m putting it top left”, the keeper still wouldn’t have stopped it. It was that good. Advantage to the home side.
Naturally, Can Tho switched on all of a sudden after Thanh Hoa went one goal up and they were very nearly level as Quang Tinh stung the palms of Thanh Thang. It was a save for the cameras, that was for sure.
After a few half-chances here and there, Can Tho finally got the goal they were searching for after a bit of penalty area pinball was finished by Tang Tuan. There was still fifteen minutes left, mind.
Quite How He Kept This One Out I Have No Idea
For reasons that I’ll never, ever understand, after getting the equaliser, Can Tho thought it would be best to sit back and seemingly accept the point. For that point, they owe Vinh Loi To a massive thank-you as he pulled off one of the best saves I’ve ever seen. Period.
A ball was floated in and it arrived at Tung Quoc Ngo who controlled it beautifully with his chest and went to volley it home. Somehow, Vinh Loi To tipped it onto the bar and that was that. FLC Thanh Hoa 1-1 Can Tho.
Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) are the best team I’ve seen this season so far as the way they move the ball around is simply second to none, so when they lost to Sai Gon last week, I was gobsmacked, but in a way, it was understandable as Sai Gon set up to soak up and hit them on the counter and that’s exactly what they did.
Da Nang Are The Vietnamese Watford
This week, HAGL were at home to a Da Nang side who were very much blowing hot and cold this season. Da Nang are one of those sides that you don’t expect to be challenging at the top, nor in trouble at the bottom. A Vietnamese Watford if you will.
HAGL took the lead in the same way that Thanh Hoa did, from the penalty spot, as Rimario Gordon was scythed down in the box by Van Thang. There was little need for the challenge as Gordon wasn’t really going anywhere.
Regardless of whether or not Van Thang should’ve made the challenge, the opportunity was now with Cong Phuong to put HAGL in the lead. He did just that as his staggered run-up sent Van Hung Le the wrong way.
One surprising thing and one surprising thing only, it took HAGL until the second half to double their advantage. I’m not sure if it was that HAGL were brilliant, Da Nang were poor or a combination of the both, but even before Cong Phuong gave HAGL the lead, it was as if there was only ever going to be one winner.
Take A Bow Minh Vuong Tran
This second goal was worth the wait. Believe me. A surging run from goalscorer, Cong Phuong put HAGL in a situation where it was three on four (in Da Nang’s favour), yet what followed was sublime. Cong Phuong gave the ball Minh Vuong Tran and I thought he was going to pass to Gordon, but oh no.
He went beyond one defender with ease, went passed another and then smashed it into the roof of the net with his weaker foot. In many respects, it could be argued it was good defending because he was being shown onto his weaker foot. No-one could’ve foreseen that finish. What a goal and what a way to seal the three points. Hoang Anh Gia Lai 2-0 Da Nang.
Second-placed Than Quang Ninh faced basement side Nam Dinh in a game where both sides were seeking redemption following previous performances. We’ve already touched on Nam Dinh’s horrid start to the season so we won’t dwell too much on that, however, going into this game, Than Quang Ninh had lost their last two, conceding six without reply.
What’s The Point?
In their defence, the 5-0 drubbing against HAGL was in the Cup, but the cup presents a route to the AFC Cup and if you’re not interested in that, then what’s the point in even bothering?
Quite how this game only finished 1-0 will be a mystery, nevertheless, it was Hang Quan Mac’s goal on the half-hour mark which separated the two sides in the end as Than Quang Ninh never looked in danger of continuing their mini-blip.
On the other hand, it means that Nam Dinh have only scored four goals in the league this season. Maybe they’ll catch a break in the cup this weekend against Binh Phuoc. We’ll see. Than Quang Ninh 1-0 Nam Dinh.
Reigning champions, Quang Nam kicked off Sunday’s action with a bore draw with third-placed Sanna Khanh Hoa. Let’s not dwell too much on the details of this one as 0-0s are rarely worth looking at. Quang Nam 0-0 Sanna Khanh Hoa.
Sai Gon Relocated In 2016
I’ll leave Ho Chi Minh vs Hai Phong until last, so we’ll look at table-toppers Ha Noi clash with second from bottom Sai Gon. Now really, there should only have been one winner here as Sai Gon are poor and Ha Noi are, well, good. There’s a bit of history behind this as well as Sai Gon used to be Ha Noi if that makes any sense at all.
Think of what happened between AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons, it’s like that in a way but Sai Gon moved from the North of Vietnam to the South. They moved just a mere, 1,700km away from their roots as they looked to rebrand themselves in 2016 which meant effectively that Ha Noi had the pick of the talent in North Vietnam. This game was the first of a double-header as the two sides face each other again in the Vietnamese Cup on Saturday.
Similar to the game against HAGL previously, Sai Gon started on the back foot as Ha Noi pressed them high and in their own half. Again, similar to the HAGL game, Sai Gon took the lead.
Oseni Was Unlucky Not To Level
Huu Son caught Van Cong off guard or so it would seem with his shot from the edge of the area as you’d have thought that the keeper would’ve kept it out. Whether or not he should have done didn’t matter to Sai Gon as they had the lead in a game they had no right to win.
Ganiyu Oseni could’ve levelled for the home and he would’ve done had it not been for an exquisite double save from Van Phong who kept out not one but two of the Nigerian’s headers in quick succession.
For all of the possession that Ha Noi were having, Sai Gon still looked frighteningly dangerous on the counter-attack and Van Cong redeemed himself on more than one occasion by keeping Ha Noi in the game.
The Acrobatics Were Better Than The Goal
Eventually, Ha Noi did get their goal as Moses Oloya was played onside by a stray Sai Gon defender following a set piece and he finished coolly. The acrobatics that followed the goal weren’t bad either.
Not many chances followed after Oloya brought Ha Noi back into the game and it’s safe to say that Dinh Nghiem Chu, the Ha Noi gaffer, would view that as two points dropped. Ha Noi 1-1 Sai Gon.
We’ll finish the V-League round-up with Ho Chi Minh’s contest with Hai Phong and while I want to tell you that it was a rip-roarer, unfortunately, it wasn’t. Errol Stevens and Andre Fagan were always going to cause problems for HCM’s back line as they struggle at the best of times, let alone against two machines like Stevens and Fagan.
If HCM were going to cause damage, it was thought it was going to come via Paulo Tavares in one form or another as the majority of their play goes through the talismanic Portuguese midfielder.
Two Flares Were The Highlight Of The First-Half
Entertainment wise, the best part of the first-half was when the travelling Hai Phong fans let off two flares at the midway point for no other reason than that they must’ve been bored.
Tell a lie, it was because they won a free-kick on the edge of the box. It was quite humorous seeing the emergency services panic like mad as if it was a nuclear weapon that had gone off.
In terms of the action on the pitch, Hai Phong just about edged the first half in my book with Andre Fagan having the best chance, he beat the keeper to the ball, he couldn’t keep it within the two posts though as it went agonisingly close. The aftermath of that saw lengthy treatment required to the goalkeeper, yet, we still only ended up with three minutes of stoppage time. Work that one out.
Fagan Unleashed A Cannon
After the break, it was tight again, ultimately, though, it would be Hai Phong’s high-pressing that would make all the difference. With only a few minutes left on the clock, Andre Fagan finished like the seasoned-pro he is as his shot cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and went in.
Cue pandemonium in the away end. Two more flares as well for good measure. I think the police might’ve had enough at this point as the Hai Phong fans retreated to the back of the stand, tear gas maybe?
Their joy was nearly cut short as Ho Chi Minh’s best chance came with the last kick of the game. There was a bit of a melee in the penalty area as the ball was bouncing all over the gaff and then an unidentified HCM player hit it wider, whereas if he had hit the target, it probably would’ve gone in.
As the ball went out for a goal kick, the referee sounded his whistle which saw several Ho Chi Minh players collapse to the floor with exhaustion and dejection as Hai Phong took the three points. Ho Chi Minh City 0-1 Hai Phong.
Now For V-League 2
That’s all from the top league, let’s take a quick look at how V-League 2 looks after the second round of fixtures. To give you some idea of how tight the league is, after the second round of fixtures, no-one has a perfect record and everyone is off the mark so it will be much fun to keep an eye on moving forward. Here are the results:
Dong Thap 2-0 Binh Dinh | Cong Anh Nhan Dan 1-0 Dak Lak | Binh Phuoc 0-2 Viettel | XM Fico Tay Ninh 2-0 CLB Bong da Hue.
As mentioned earlier at some point, there’s no league action this week, bar the second division which has got a full set of fixtures on Wednesday as it’s the National Cup.
I’ll be taking in Becamex Binh Duong vs Binh Dinh on Saturday which should end up in a home win if the league tables are anything to go by, then again, we could end up with some cup magic. Fingers crossed.
Until the next time.