Some see it as the most overused term in sport, but I firmly believe that momentum in football is a real thing.
It’s almost palpable when the atmosphere shifts inside a stadium and suddenly it feels inevitable that one team is going to come out on top.
Sunday night in Hàng Đẫy Stadium in Hà Nội was a great example of how the ebbs and flows of momentum can shape a match, and perhaps offered a hint of what’s to come in the title race.
It was a clash of first versus second as hosts Hà Nội FC took on Sông Lam Nghệ An (SLNA), who at kick off were just a point behind the capital side.
To say the SLNA fans travel well would be an understatement. Hàng Đẫy was as full as I’ve seen it in a while and early on it was the travelling fans making all the noise.
Their opening goal was delivered with less than four minutes gone courtesy of a powerful Michael Olaha header from a corner down by the away end and it truly felt like the visiting support had sucked the ball into the net.
Momentum was with the visitors, until it wasn’t.
The entire tenor of the match changed in a three-minute sequence early in the second half, first when Olaha was sent off for an elbow, before Hà i won and scored a penalty shortly after.
From there the home side had the wind in their sails and it was no surprise they netted a winner with 14 minutes left.
SLNA’s coach Nguyễn Huy Hoàng has complained about the two decisions and while I think he has a case with the red card, we’re not here to debate refereeing calls, at least this week.
Whether it happened by fair means or foul, Hà Nội were able to turn the momentum to their favour in this crucial match and I think it could be a harbinger of what’s to come in the title race.
The capital side have won four in a row and once they quieted the visiting fans on Sunday, they played some scintillating football.
Perhaps even more importantly though, Hà Nội seem to finally have fullback Đoàn Văn Hậu back fit and in good form.
Hậu might be the most talented player in the league now Nguyễn Quang Hải plays in France, as few members of V.League 1 teams (Vietnamese and foreign alike) have played for clubs of the level of SC Heerenveen, even if Hậu spent most of his spell their on the bench.
On Sunday, the left back was composed in defence and offered some thrust in attack, as it was his cross that won the penalty.
Momentum seems to be with the men in purple for now but as we saw over the weekend, that can all change in the blink of an eye. VNS