|Target man: Thanh Hoa's Slovenian striker Nastja Ceh (right) is in a rich vein of form in the V-League. His performances have played a key role in Thanh Hoa's rise to the top of the table. — Photo caysua.info
HA NOI (VNS) — V-League's leader Thanh Hoa will play former champions Becamex Binh Duong tomorrow, while hoping to maintain their peak performance in their comeback match after the Tet holiday.
After the first three rounds of the national premier league, the team tops the table.
They were summoned on the fourth day of the Lunar New Year with intensive training shifts.
"Tet is over. We know the match will be difficult but if my players can keep their focus, our road will be easier," said coach Mai Duc Chung.
After a goal-less draw against Hai Phong in the opening match, Thanh Hoa, which has three foreign and two ‘imported' players, decisively beat title favourites SHB Da Nang 1-0 and Song Lam Nghe An 2-1 in the next two rounds.
"We have good players in all positions so I have choice for the best line-up. I am a happy coach who can carry out different tactical designs against different rivals," Chung said.
Chung also praised his defenders who worked together effectively along with goalie To Vinh Loi to protect their net. Despite playing strong rivals, they suffered only two goal losses in two matches.
"I visited Barcelona and was interested in their eye-catching style. However, my team will follow Chelsea who play the best defence before attacks. A beautiful playing style is nothing without victory, which is the most important for any team," Chung added.
"Here in Thanh Hoa, we prefer defence because we will have at least one point if our defenders play best."
Their rivals Binh Duong will present Le Thuy Hai who rejoins the team as the technical director on Monday. His comeback was said to be ‘a necessity' after the two-time champions performed poorly in the league, winning just one point after two matches although they have brought in qualified players, including the trio Nguyen Trong Hoang, Au Van Hoan and Hoang Van Binh from Song Lam Nghe An at a cost of VND20 billion (US$952,000).
Hai, 69, was the technical director of the team in the 2013 season, but his contract was not extended when the team finished 12th out of 13 teams.
"To strengthen the power of the team, we have decided to invite [Le Thuy] Hai to take charge of the technical section as he is an experienced coach with a rich background in football," said a statement of the club, released early this week.
It is Hai's sixth time in Binh Duong. He had guided the team to V-League victory twice in a row in 2007-08.
"Binh Duong have changed almost all of their first team members ahead of the league. While football is a team sport, newcomers need time to be in harmony and build a strong team," said Hai.
Despite the unexpected result, Chairman of Binh Duong Football Join stock Company Cao Van Chong said: "We had determination but lacked accuracy, effectiveness and luck in the first matches. However the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We will strive our best against all rivals, the leading team or the others. We believe in coach Nguyen Minh Dung and technical director Hai."
In their four meetings in the last two seasons, Thanh Hoa has won three and lost one. Of the three wins, two were on home turfs.
Another focus of the fourth round in the V-League is the match between Hoang Anh Gia Lai and Song Lam Nghe An.
Gia Lai had a slow start with one point after two matches and are at the bottom of the table, while Nghe An are ranked second from the top.
Nghe An won two, drew one and lost one of their matches with Gia Lai in the last two seasons.
The other matches are Quang Ninh Coal versus Dong Tam Long An, Ninh Binh versus SHB Da Nang and Hai Phong versus Hung Vuong An Giang, all tomorrow. — VNS