|Attempted larceny: Midfielder Nguyen Van Quyet of Ha Noi T&T (centre) tries to steal a ball from Kitchee SC players during their ACL qualification round yesterday in Ha Noi. T&T win 1-0. — VNS Photo Tuan Tu
HA NOI (VNS) — Gonzalo Damian Marronkle scored the only goal as Ha Noi T&T beat Kitchee SC yesterday in the second qualification round of the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League in Ha Noi.
The captain's second-half strike was enough for the Vietnamese side to advance to the final stage of qualifiers for the league, setting up a crucial clash with Pohang Steelers next week.
Ha Noi T&T made only one change compared to their last week's match against Becamex Binh Duong during their National Super Cup 0-2 loss.
Striker Marronkle returned to his familiar position at the top of the front line.
Neither side could take the initiative in the opening period as the first half at the Hang Day Stadium ended goalless.
Hong Kong treble winners Kitchee SC did what their coach said at a press conference a day before. Despite the challenge from the visitors they created consecutive attacks from two wings and nearly had an opener seven minutes into the match.
Defender Duy Khanh was confused in an attempt to defend his net, giving the ball to Kitchee striker Christian Kwesi who, however, failed to score as his shot went wide.
Hosts Ha Noi T&T struggled to make a hole in Kitchee's strong defence, and failed to make any passes to Marronkle who was closely supervised by Fernando Recio Comi, one of the four foreigners playing for the Hong Kong side.
Things changed after the interval when Ha Noi T&T displayed another side to their game.
Their effort brought positive results in the 61st minute when Marronkle broke the deadlock shortly after the hour mark with a powerful header.
The Argentine skipper, who has been with the two-time Vietnamese champions since 2009, struck in the 62nd-minute with his third goal in the league qualifiers, having bagged a brace in Ha Noi T&T's 4-0 win over Persib Bandung in their ultimately fruitless quest to reach the 2015 tournament, which ended with a 7-0 hammering at the hands of FC Seoul.
Earlier, Hoang Vu Samson gave a perfect pass to Nguyen Xuan Nam in the box but the 22-year-old midfielder brought the ball over the bar.
Ha Noi T&T's hopes of joining arch rivals Becamex Binh Duong in the Group Stage of the 2016 AFC Champions League now rest on defeating another South Korean side, with Phan Thanh Hung's side taking on 2009 ACL champions Pohang Steelers on February 9.
The team that emerges victorious from this clash at the Steelyard in Pohang City will find a slot in Group H, where reigning continental champions Guangzhou Evergrande, 2007 ACL winners Urawa Reds, and Sydney FC await them.
Viet Nam's champions Becamex Binh Duong are in Group E, which has Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea and Jiangsu Suning from China. — VNS