|Raised fists: Nastja Ceh of Thanh Hoa celebrates a goal during a V-League match. He scored the winner from a free kick to beat SHB Da Nang last weekend. — Photo vietnamplus.vn
HA NOI (VNS)— Song Lam Nghe An vs Thanh Hoa will be a focus of the V-League third round matches this weekend, even as both teams claim the largest number of crazy fans.
Despite expressing appreciation for their rival, Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA) set a target of scoring three points during the home ground match as a special gift for the Tet holiday.
SLNA lost many of their first team players just weeks before the league opened. However, striker Le Cong Vinh has returned after playing in Japan on a five-month loan, and has become the key in making the team believe in victory. Also, the national team member last week set a record for his 100th goal scored in his career, the first ever in Vietnamese football league.
The second reason SLNA is hoping for victory is that Thanh Hoa has not won in Vinh Stadium since 2008. In the past six matches, SLNA won three and drew three. SLNA also has not failed on their home turf in 18 months, with strong support from home fans who always fill the 18,000-seat stadium, all wearing yellow supporting T-shirts.
"The bigger the rival, the more meaningful win we can grab," said coach Nguyen Huu Thang.
SLNA is now on top of the ranking table with six points from two wins.
Thanh Hoa has been in the clouds since successfully defeating title favourite SHB Da Nang and drew Hai Phong in the first two rounds. Their stars and playing style under coach Mai Duc Chung were said to be strong enough to become a title candidate this season.
All of their best players, including World Cup participant Nastja Ceh and qualified halfback Danny van Bakel, as well as striker Mac Hong Quan, will arrive at Vinh and they also want to win as a Tet present for their own fans and all football lovers.
This was the first time Thanh Hoa won over Da Nang, which strengthened their determination to beat SLNA for the first time at Vinh.
"We are in a good mood and at peak at the moment. This match against SLNA will be difficult, but we will try our best to bring home victory to celebrate Tet," said midfielder Le Quoc Phuong.
On Sunday Dong Tam Long An will host two-time champion Hoang Anh Gia Lai, as they remain two of three teams placing at the bottom of the table.
"We really need three points to make sure that the whole team is happy when spending the Tet holiday together with their family. If not, it will be a very tiresome and boring occasion," said Nguyen Tan Anh, head of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai football team. They lost all of their first matches and remain 13 out of 13.
Head of Long An team Vo Thanh Nhiem shared the same feelings, saying any point was important because many challenges were waiting them on the long path to the finish.
For several days, the Dong Tam Long An FC Fan Club has travelled around the province appealing to people to come to the stadium and support their team.
Fans say that their presence in the stands will encourage Ngo Quang Sang and his team, who have only one point after playing two matches.
Quang Ninh Coal travelled thousands of kilometres to southern Binh Duong Province since early this week in preparation for today match with host Becamex Binh Duong.
Coach Dinh Cao Nghia wanted his players to have time to adjust to the difference in weather between the two provinces. The north is in a freeze, while the south is hot. The players also need to relax after the long trip.
However, his thin defence is giving him a headache.
His best defender, Bui Trong Nghia, can not play after suffering a stretched ligament last month during a friendly match with Ninh Binh.
Midfielder Le Bat Hieu also has problems with a red card and will be rested.
Meanwhile, Binh Duong, after spending a lot of money shopping qualified players for the season, has not won a single point.
This match is the first they will play on the home turf and also the first meet with Quang Ninh, who is the V-League's freshman.
Different from Quang Ninh, Binh Duong will have their strongest players today when striker Abdullahi Suleiman returns following his being out due to an injury.
Coach Nguyen Minh Dung said they would leave behind the shocking 2-4 loss to defending champions Ha Noi T&T. "We will beat Quang Ninh to gain back our momentum. Binh Duong will play in attack and earn three points."
In other matches, Hai Phong will travel to face Quang Nam with only 16 players, while Da Nang will welcome Dong Nai. — VNS