|High spirits: Ha Noi T&T players were in party mood on Saturday night as they lifted the V-League 2013 trophy, their second title in four years. — VNS Photo Tien Thanh
HA NOI (VNS)—Newly crowned champions Ha Noi T&T celebrated wildly in front of their fans as the curtain fell on one of the most embattled V-League seasons in living memory.
An emotional atmosphere filled Ha Noi's Hang Day Stadium as the final whistle signalled the end of a 3-3 draw with Hai Phong, enough to seal the championship. The victorious T&T players celebrated wildly, seeking hugs from their teammates and lapping up the adoration of the crowd.
Coach Phan Thanh Hung has now steered his side to two titles in three years, after securing their maiden championship in 2010. He has become the third Vietnamese coach to win two titles with the same club since the league became professional in 2001, following in the footsteps of Le Thuy Hai and Le Huynh Duc.
During the celebrations, Hung was joined by his wife, wowing fans and media who crowded around him and bombarded him with questions.
"The victory today is even more convincing than that in 2010. We have really been a strong team this season and showed our title credentials throughout," he told Viet Nam News after the match.
Many players celebrated with partners and family members, savouring a moment they will remember forever.
"Victory is always sweet and the title we won this year is particularly rewarding. It is definitely not a fluke because we have shown our ability to win throughout the season," commented veteran midfielder Cao Sy Cuong, who has now played a part in both of Ha Noi T&T's titles.
"The most difficult moment we faced this season was when we lost Cristiano Roland to injury and Gonzalo Marronkle had to fill in as a makeshift defender. Fortunately for us, he was excellent," the 30 year-old added.
Despite his move to defence, Marronkle still managed to score plenty of goals this season, sharing the Golden Boot with Nigerian teammate Samson Kayode after both netted 14 goals in 20 games.
"The improved understanding with my teammates after two seasons here improved my scoring rate this season," said the prolific Kayode.
In the other final day fixtures, defending champions SHB Da Nang salvaged something from the season by overcoming Thanh Hoa 2-1 to seal the runners-up spot with 35 points.
Hoang Anh Gia Lai had to settle for the third place despite a 1-0 win against Ninh Binh bringing them level on points with Da Nang, who have a superior head-to-head record.
Song Lam Nghe An, title favourites for much of the season, let down their ardent fans by slumping to a 2-1 defeat to Dong Nai, sending them down to the fourth spot.
The game's governing bodies will now turn their attention to next year's competition, which they will hope provides more stability after a year marred by controversial organisational decisions and U-turns and Xuan Thanh Sai Gon's decision to quit the league in protest at a points deduction for poor performance. — VNS