|Training: Nguyen Cong Phuong seen during a training course. He scored a double in his V.League 1 debut under Hoang Anh Gia Lai jersey yesterday. Hoang Anh Gia Lai beat Sanna Khanh Hoa 4-2. — Photo zdn.vn
HA NOI — The opening round of the Toyota V. League 1 drew the attention of all national football fans yesterday with an exciting match that witnessed several goals.
Host team Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), which fielded players it trained on its own for the first time, defeated Sanna Khanh Hoa 4-2 at Pleiku Stadium, Gia Lai Province.
Hoang Anh Gia Lai are the youngest club in the history of national football leagues, with the average age of all its players being 21.7 years.
Khanh Hoa, which rebuilt itself after the dismissal of its first team two years ago, are also one of among the young teams competing in the V. League this season.
Both football clubs are new to the tournament. While Khanh Hoa came in second in V. League 2 and were promoted to V. League 1, Hoang Anh Gia Lai ended contracts with all its members and pushed its youth squad to compete in the premier league competition.
However, Hoang Anh Gia Lai were far better prepared than its rivals. The team, which played a key role as the former national U19, spent nearly the whole of last year training abroad and participating in international competitions.
As a result, they competed better in the match yesterday.
After the first 25 minutes of familiarising himself with the game, midfielder Nguyen Tuan Anh, one of the most beloved players of the team, scored the opener with a shot that went over Khanh Hoa's players' heads to find the net.
Nguyen Cong Phuong, whose T-shirt is the most wanted among Hoang Anh Gia Lai members, brought the score to 2-0 some 15 minutes later.
Phuong started the attack from the middle of the field, raced ahead and passed the ball to winger Le Hoang Thien to his left. After controlling the ball for a few steps, Thien passed it back field to Phuong, who was already in the box by then and scored easily.
Phuong who left almost no trace in the first half then scored his second goal 20 minutes after the break.
The skilled striker stole the ball in the central area of the field, dodged four defenders and finished successfully with his left leg, scoring the first double of the tournament.
Earlier, midfielder Luong Xuan Truong marked his presence with a goal at the 59th.
After stealing the ball from Khanh Hoa's Nguyen Hoang Quoc Chi, the captain was faced with an open net guarded only by goalkeeper Tran The Kiet, who failed to stop the goal that took a banana-shaped orbit.
Khanh Hoa scored their goals in between Hoang Anh Gia Lai's.
Chi netted at the 48th minute and substitute Tran Dinh Kha found the net 35 minutes later.
Despite strong efforts, the visitors could not score equalisers even after using all three replacements in the second half.
Coach of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Guillaume Graechen said he was happy with the first win in the V. League.
He added that the key to winning was effectiveness. Although his players were still young they converted nearly every opportunity they received into goals and posed a great challenge to Khanh Hoa.
The Frenchman, however, was not satisfied, as his players did not obey his instruction to watch out for the visitors' long balls, which led to an early goal for Khanh Hoa in the second half.
Assistant Coach Nguyen Quang Dong of Khanh Hoa noted: "Hoang Anh Gia Lai deserved to win the match. The team has young players but took part in many tournaments. Playing in the V. League is valuable experience for them."
Dong remarked that he was impressed with Anh's performance, adding that the midfielder led the team with his opening goal.
However, he blamed referee Nguyen Trung Kien, alleging that he missed some mistakes especially in the second half.
In the next round, Khanh Hoa will have the chance to bag their first win in their home game against Dong Nai. Hoang Anh Gia Lai, however, will be staying home to entertain Dong Tam Long An.
In another match yesterday, defending champions Becamex Binh Duong trounced Dong Thap 6-0, taking up the top spot in the ranking.
Furthermore, Thanh Hoa beat determined SHB Da Nang 2-1 on their home ground; Quang Ninh Coal beat host Dong Nai 2-0; Hai Phong defeated former winners Song Lam Nghe An 3-0 at Vinh Stadium, a noted national football ground; runners-up Ha Noi T&T were tied 1-1 by Dong Tam Long An and Can Tho ended their match with Quang Nam in a goalless game. — VNS