BÌNH DƯƠNG — The opening match of the 2022 V.League saw Sông Lam Nghệ An (SLNA) triumph and secure the first three points of the season with a 1-0 win against Becamex Bình Dương on Friday.
The only goal came from Mohammad Abdul Basit in the 57th minute, which helped Nghệ An extend their unbeaten run against Bình Dương to 14 consecutive matches, with 10 wins and four draws.
After last season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 V.League still hasn't quite left the difficulties behind. The match between Hà Nội and Thanh Hóa had to be postponed due to COVID impacting the number of players available.
Fortunately, the other three matches were able to go ahead. The opening match saw Nghệ An seeking a fresh start after a lucky escape from relegation last season.
Even though they were playing at Bình Dương’s Gò Đậu Stadium, SLNA’s supporters still dominated the crowd with a wall of yellow covering the stands, despite being 1,434km from home.
With the fan’s support, a new coaching board and favourable head–to–head stats, three points were at the forefront of Nghệ An's players as they pressed hard from the off.
With their 3-5-2 formation, SLNA were able to dominate the wings with their two powerful wing-backs Phạm Xuân Mạnh and Trần Đình Hoàng. Most of their chances resulted from build-up play from the sides.
One of the first chances came at the 4th minute, starting on the left wing before switching the ball to the right for Phan Văn Đức, who then delivered an excellent through ball for Michael Olaha, but the Nigerian’s poor first touch let the chance go wide.
Despite constant pressure from the visitors, Bình Dương sat back and defended solidly, waiting for counter-attacks.
It was the home side who had the first dangerous attempt of the game when, after 17 minutes, Nguyễn Anh Tài crossed to the far post and found the head of Eydison Teofilo Soares, but the Brazilian failed to hit the centre of the ball.
That was Bình Dương's best chance in the first half as Nghệ An regained control and continued creating more scoring opportunities, through the flexibility of Phan Văn Đức and the power of the foreign pair Olaha and Basit.
Nghệ An's second and third chances came within two minutes of each other. Đức, after an effort to keep the ball inside Bình Dương’s box, laid it back to Mark O'Ojong whose long-range effort in the 30th minute ended up wide.
Two minutes later, after a beautiful long ball turned defence into attack, wing–back Đình Hoàng received the ball and fed Olaha with an accurate low cross. It would have been a goal for the Nigerian if it hadn’t been for Bình Dương’s defender Nguyễn Thanh Long brilliant block that created another chance for Basit on the rebound, but the Ghanaian’s attempt didn’t hit the target.
It’s safe to say that Bình Dương’s solid defence helped them go through the first half with a clean sheet, but one lack of concentration in the second half was enough for them to pay the price.
After two consecutive shots from outside the box by Olaha, the ball deflected high up, enough to catch all the attention of Bình Dương’s defence and goalkeeper Nguyễn Sơn Hải, who raised his head to look for the ball and completely forgot the approach of Basit.
With the ball in sight, it was too late for the goalkeeper to react as the Ghanaian was one step ahead and netted the first goal of the season with a header.
Bình Dương tried to reply with three substitutions, but their gameplay was too simple for Nghệ An defence, who welcomed the return of former Việt Nam captain Quế Ngọc Hải. The remainder of the match saw Bình Dương desperately spammed with crosses, which were easily turned away.
Bình Dương's effort in the 90 minutes wasn’t enough to help them escape another disappointing result against the Nghệ An side.
This win wasn't enough for SLNA to grab the top spot of the table, as Bùi Tiến Dũng and Geovane Magno scored in a 2-0 win against Bình Định put Viettel on top.
At the same time, visitor Hải Phòng also shared the winning joy with a 1-0 win at Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh Stadium. Rimario Gordon was the hero after scoring the only goal of the match in the 90th minute.
The two remaining matches of the opening round will take place on Saturday, with Sài Gòn FC facing SHB Đà Nẵng and Nam Định meeting Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, who are expected to bring a super match between the clubs with the two biggest fan bases in the league. VNS