Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The national football championship is heading to the season’s end with its top four teams each having a chance to take the cup.
Hải Phòng are in first place, with 41 points. SHB Đà Nẵng and Quảng Ninh Coal are close behind, with only one point less, while Hà Nội T&T are in fourth place with 38 points.
And there are only four rounds remaining for the ‘Fantastic Four’ to collect as many points as possible to win the championship.
In theory, Hải Phòng have the best chance, as they have been on form since the beginning of the tournament, despite a 1-1 draw to FLC Thanh Hóa on August 21, which slowed them down on the way to the finish. Some unexpected losses and draws in the earlier rounds also helped other teams narrow the gap from nine points to one.
But they still can decide their own fate, particularly since their next four matches are considered much easier than their rivals’ matches.
Only Quảng Nam are in the upper half of the ranking, though they lost the last two rounds.
Also, former champions Sông Lam Nghệ An have been struggling throughout the tournament. They are very near the top three from the bottom.
Cần Thơ are not mystery to Hải Phòng anymore, as in their first leg match against Hải Phòng which they won 1-0.
The last match is against Long An, who are second from the bottom and trying to avoid relegation.
Among the four matches, Hải Phòng will play two on their home turf. And they are really tough when playing at home, suffering only one defeat to SHB Đà Nẵng last month.
After the round 21 match, Hải Phòng were asked to win this season by the city’s Party Committee Secretary Lê Văn Thành who also promised a large bonus for the team, if it is triumphant.
“We are leading with only one point, but it is difficult to say anything prior to the games. We will try our best to complete the task. The order from the city leader is a strong force and also is heavy pressure for us,” said coach Trương Việt Hoàng.
“We will work hard and be focused, match by match.”
To take the title for the first time in history, Hải Phòng have no way but to win all four of the remaining matches, which Hoàng considered the four finals.
SHB Đà Nẵng have really been quiet this season, but that does not mean they are slow. At the second position, Đà Nẵng are directly threatening to replace Hải Phòng in the top position, as they did in round 18 in late July.
To have a chance to celebrate the V.League victory again, Đà Nẵng will also have to win all of its matches and wait for a draw from Hải Phòng.
Their rivals will be Sanna Khánh Hòa, Sài Gòn, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai and Đồng Tháp.
Sanna Khánh Hòa and Sài Gòn are standing in the middle of the table, and just trying to improve their final ranking.
One of the latter two, Đồng Tháp, have been assured of having a berth in the lower division next season. The other, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, are on and off with their line-up, which is made up of more than 90 per cent youngsters.
In third place, Quảng Ninh Coal are a phenomenon this year, under coach Phan Thanh Hùng.
They ran straight from the lower part to the current third.
But their competition schedule has been difficult.
Meanwhile, Quảng Ninh will play their direct rival, Hà Nội T&T, in the next-to-last round. The loser of this match will be out of the race.
And in the other matches, they are to play against Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, Thanh Hóa and Sanna Khánh Hòa. Though some say the team depends too much on Russian striker Dyachenko Rodion Sergey’s performance.
“My team have taken remarkable steps this season, and I think we will be successful. It will be great if we win the cup but, on the other hand, it is no problem,” said Hùng.
Jamaican striker Andre Diego Fagan of Hải Phòng (centre) seen playing during a game between Hải Phòng and FLC Thanh Hóa in the V.League last weekend. Hải Phòng are asked to win the national premier league this season. — Photo webthethao.vn
Hà Nội T&T are home to quality players and made strong progress to enter the top four, a position that none of their players could have imagined reaching after their poor performance in the beginning of the league.
Their changes in the line-up and head coach position helped greatly. The former champions found the right way and are now hunting for another title.
They are also the title candidate for the National Cup, and have entered the finals.
“In my dozens of years working as a coach, this is the most dramatic season. It is near the end, but up to five teams can vie for the title,” said coach Hoàng Văn Phúc of Quảng Nam.
“FLC Thanh Hóa, (at fifth position) have been left far behind, so the opportunity is equal for the remaining four.
“In my opinion, Hải Phòng can decide, but Đà Nẵng have a better chance, as their competition is more comfortable. Their only challenge is a match in Nha Trang (this week), while they can pocket all the points from the other matches.
“Meanwhile, Hải Phòng, Quảng Ninh Coal and Hà Nội T&T have to play each other, and FLC Thanh Hóa.
“Đà Nẵng, moreover, have a foreign duo, Gaston Sebastian Merlo and Teofilo Soares Eydison, who are at their peak and score regularly,” said Phúc.
“Anyway, I believe that the winner only will appear after the last round.”
Coach Hùng of Quảng Ninh, however, has not predicted the winning team.
“Each of them has their own advantage and disadvantage. And to win the championship, that team must have a consistent performance, the strongest players, good tactics and also luck,” said the former national team manager.
“None of them can separate from the other. They are at the same level and have not removed Thanh Hóa from the race,” Hùng said.
Thanh Hóa have spent a lot of cash this season to become the king. However, after their impressive start they are being left behind in the race, with six points less than the leading Hải Phòng.
Last week, they ended their relationship with technical director Lê Thụy Hải, who was thought to have brought the club to new heights.
Coach Hoàng Thanh Tùng still confirmed his team’s determination, but Thanh Hóa now cannot decide on their own chance. What they have to do is win all their matches and wait for their rivals’ losses.
The V.League’s next round will be played on August 27-28. — VNS