Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The winner of the V.League’s first leg will be determined after this weekend’s 13th round matches, which will see seven candidates vie for top position.
Among them, FLC Thanh Hóa, Hải Phòng and Sanna Khánh Hòa are the top contenders.
Thanh Hóa are the favourites, as the league leader will play on home turf against Sài Gòn FC.
Hải Phòng, in second place, will visit former champions Becamex Bình Dương.
Khánh Hòa, at fourth, will head to play HCM City at the Thống Nhất Stadium.
Thanh Hóa, with 22 points, need a victory to win the leg, irrespective of results of all other games.
The team is upbeat after coming from behind to beat Hoàng Anh Gia Lai 3-2 last week. The win has pushed them back to the top of the ranking table.
However, they will not have midfielder Nguyễn Bật Hiếu as he has been banned for one match after receiving three yellow cards from previous matches.
It will be a huge gap in Thanh Hóa’s lineup as Hiếu is among the players with the steadiest performance until now. He played all 11 matches and helped his club concede only eight goals, the lowest number among 14 teams.
Coach Petrovic will also be watching Thanh Hóa from the stand. He has been banned due to his angry reaction against referees during the team’s 1-2 loss to Hà Nội FC last month.
Their rivals, Sài Gòn FC, meanwhile, are playing well. They bagged three wins and two draws from the previous five games. Last week, the No 9 team defeated third-placed Quảng Nam 2-1.
Football expert Nguyễn Thành Vinh believed Thanh Hóa would win.
“The home-turf advantage will help Thanh Hóa win. Thanh Hóa play aggressively when they are in front of a stadium filled with fans. Their only problem is the defence. In two recent matches they conceded four goals as many as what they did in the first nine rounds. But I believe in them and they are worthy to be at the No. 1 position after the first leg,” Vinh said.
The second candidate is Hải Phòng, who must win while hoping for a draw result from Thanh Hóa’s match.
The team from the north, Hải Phòng, have displayed outstanding performance this season with only three defeats. They have not lost to any team in the top six except Sanna Khánh Hòa in a match two month ago, but at that time Khánh Hòa were No 11.
Since that defeat, Hải Phòng have not lost any game, pocketing three wins and two draws.
Their rival, Becamex Bình Dương, however, are trying to move away from the danger zone. They are currently No 3 from the bottom. Once the so-called Vietnamese galaxy, that time is long gone. Many stars have left and the team’s managers did not shop for players but instead focused on using their in house-trained players. Their poor results are evident in the two wins, six draws and four losses.
It seems that home turf is not an advantage for Bình Dương as three of their losses have taken place at the Gò Đậu Stadium.
The third team, Khánh Hòa, are in a more difficult situation as apart from winning their own match, they will be hoping Thanh Hóa and Hải Phòng lose their games.
The phenomenal team this season only have to face the newcomer, who are No. 9 in the ranking, and their results are not really noteworthy, with four wins, three draws and five losses.
A win for them is a 50-50 chance, like what coach Võ Đình Tân said, but if Thanh Hóa do not lose and/or Hải Phòng win, their effort will just be to strengthen their position.
In other matches of this round, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai said they are unlikely to spring a surprise when playing Quảng Ninh Coal in Cẩm Phả.
Former coach Vinh said Hoàng Anh Gia Lai displayed confidence and played well, however, there are problems in their lineup.
“Their young defenders lack experience. Their height is not enough to resist teams who play high balls. If they can solve these matters, they would be the team to watch,” Vinh said, who added that in the upcoming match three of their key players will be absent for different reasons. This would strongly affect their playing style.
“It is why I vote for Quảng Ninh, who are playing on home turf with a huge number of supporters.”
Vinh also gave his opinion on the match between No 6 Quảng Nam and bottom-ranked Long An.
He said Long An would find it difficult to bag single point from this game.
“Quảng Nam suffered two losses in a row but they are a good team with sharp strikers. Long An, meanwhile, are in crisis and need a magic wakeup call,” Vinh said.
Coach Nguyễn Minh Phương agreed with him.
“My players are injured and banned so I have only 15 players who can play in this match. We are a weak team and are currently facing a huge problem. It will be difficult to get a point, but we will play our best,” he said.
Following this round, the teams will rest until near the end of June, when the young players are called up for the U20 team, which will participate in the World Cup in South Korea. — VNS