|Hand on the title: Hoang Vu Samson (left) scored a hattrick in Ha Noi T&T's 3-1 victory over Hoang Anh Gia Lai in the 22nd round of the V-League yesterday. — VNS Photo Tuan Tu
HA NOI (VNS) — Hoang Vu Samson scored a hat trick in Ha Noi T&T's 3-1 victory over Hoang Anh Gia Lai, maintaining their hope to defend this season's V-League title.
Playing on their home turf, the champions suffered a goal loss just four minutes into the game. Former national goalkeeper Duong Hong Son returned to action after a match off last week, but he failed to block striker Felix Ogbuke's straight shot to the corner after his solo break-in from the left wing.
Yet, the early goal did not bring T&T players down, as they found the driving force to come back strongly.
The Ha Noi players created heavy pressure, but could not knock out Hoang Anh Gia Lai keeper Nguyen Tuan Manh until the 30th minute mark.
Cao Sy Cuong made a smart pass from the right wing, which came to the penalty area. Samson rushed in and converted the leveller for the hosts.
The Nigerian-Vietnamese player had his double just one minute before the break, tapping the ball to the high corner to make it 2-1.
The second half saw the same happenings.
Hoang Anh Gia Lai, despite playing with the best forwards, could not score more goals, while their defenders worked hard against T&T's consecutive attacks.
Samson bagged his third goal at the 57th minute when he broke into Hoang Anh Gia Lai's defence and easily scored.
With 19 goals, Samson jumped to the top of the best scorer board.
Anjembe Timothy of Hoang Anh Gia Lai was second with 18 goals.
This was the sixth week in a row that Hoang Anh Gia Lai has not won in V-League. These poor results pushed them down to the ninth place in the rankings, with only 19 points.
After 22 rounds, T&T earned 44 points and ranked second behind Becamex Binh Duong, who also won 3-1 yesterday over Quang Nam.
After suffering a strong blow, as six players were arrested following an alleged match-fixing scandal some days before the match, Dong Nai did play an outstanding game, defeating former champions SHB Da Nang 2-1 on their home soil.
Coach Tran Binh Su did find suitable substitutes to fill the holes in his team, and their smooth combination brought sweet results at the 80th and 82nd minutes when Nguyen Hai Anh and Nguyen Rogers found the net for the hosts.
The visitors later narrowed the score when Zbrun Matias Jose's close tap-in went to the net at the 85th.
"As I said before the match, we played with all the best for a good finish. We deserved to have this win. This would be the most suitable, though we are sorry for our fans after such a terrible scandal," said Su, at the post-match briefing.
Coach Le Huynh Duc of Da Nang agreed that Dong Nai's victory was worthy of the host side, who played better with their highly competitive spirit.
Duc worried that the loss would strongly affect his chance to win a bronze medal this season. However, they still have two matches ahead and Da Nang said he would not give up.
In other action, Hai Phong tied Dong Tam Long An 1-1; Thanh Hoa shared one point with Song Lam Nghe An in a goalless match; and Hung Vuong An Giang lost 1-2 to Quang Ninh Coal. — VNS