|Hà Nội fell to a 3-2 defeat to Hải Phòng on Sunday. Photo courtesy of VPF|
Is a V.League 1 title race about to break out?
After weeks of it seeming like a foregone conclusion that Hà Nội FC would finish atop the pile this year after three wins on the bounce all by three goals or more, Hải Phòng FC put the cat among the pigeons.
On Sunday evening at Lạch Tray Stadium, the hosts stunned Hà Nội with three first-half goals before holding off a comeback attempt for a 3-2 victory.
The result means Hà Nội are only two points clear of Hải Phòng at the summit and four ahead of Bình Định FC, though they have a game in hand over Hải Phòng.
But back to the million-dollar question: do we now have a title race?
Not according to Hải Phòng coach Chu Đình Nghiêm.
Nghiêm knows a thing or two about getting over the line, given that he lifted the V.League 1 title three times when he ran the show at Hà Nội.
According to bongdaplus.vn, after the pulsating affair at Lạch Tray, Nghiêm poured cold water on the idea that his side could challenge for the silverware and reiterated that his goal was a top-three finish.
So is Nghiêm playing mind games and trying to heap all the pressure on Hà Nội, or does he truly believe his side have no chance of coming out on top?
Whether you take him at his word or not, I think it’s Hà Nội’s title to lose.
Taking a look at the run in makes it clear that it would be a spectacular failure if Hà Nội don’t finish first.
Of their final five fixtures, only one stands out as a true test in my book.
No disrespect to Đà Nẵng, Hà Tĩnh, and Thanh Hóa, but Hà Nội are almost guaranteed nine points from those games, with only relegation-battling Hà Tĩnh playing for anything.
At the start of the season I would have said visiting Hoàng Anh Gia Lai in the final fixture would have presented a challenge, but HAGL have been surprisingly poor this season and given that they play Hà Nội four days later in the cup semi-final, I don’t expect to see their best effort.
That leaves only the Hà Nội derby versus Viettel on November 9 as a legitimate banana skin in my book and if Hà Nội can avoid slipping up there, the title is as good as theirs.
If they somehow conspire to throw away their lead, Chun Jae-ho could very well follow Nghiêm into the list of former Hà Nội FC coaches. VNS