HCM CITY (VNS)— HCM City's women's football team drew with defending champions Ha Noi 1 in the final match of the first leg of the National Women's Football Championships, as Phong Phu Ha Nam finished in the top position.
Captain midfielder Tran Thi Kim Hong opened the scoring for HCM City with a free kick, but substitute Pham Hai Yen put the game on equal terms just five minutes later with a close-range header.
Ha Noi 1 now has 11 points to rank second, while last year's runners-up, HCM City, has eight points and occupies third place. Ha Nam has 12 points and leads the first leg of the championships.
Ha Noi 1 displayed their intention of defeating HCM City to regain the top place by threatening the host team's goal immediately after the opening final with waves of attacks, and they could have been successful after only three minutes, except that captain Nguyen Thi Kim Tien's free kick hit the base of the post.
But hosts HCM City played with much determination and gradually turned the tide as the match became more aggressive with repeated battles for balls at midfield, which resulted in three early yellow cards for coach Dang Quoc Tuan's players.
HCM City were, in general, the better team for the whole of the first half. Coach Nguyen Huu Thang's team enjoyed more possessions, but their efforts were only enough to give Ha Noi defenders and goalkeeper Nguyen Thi Thuy Duong some hard work on the field, though the host team never appeared close to scoring.
Ha Noi started the second half on a better note and had more possessions. They also introduced top striker and national team's key member Nguyen Thi Minh Nguyet, but it was goal-scoring opportunities that the defending champions lacked. On the other side, HCM City were very well organised in defence.
After 15 minutes of defence, HCM City turned to playing an offensive game with Hong, another of the national team's key members, who was lively on the right wing. Ha Noi 1 remained under great pressure for long periods. Yet, HCM City's efforts were rewarded on the 81st minute with the opener, when Hong curled in a free kick that hit the underside of the bar and travelled into the net.
But the home team's joy for dozens of home fans was short-lived as substitute Yen headed in from a close range to level the match, after the ball fell to her following a mess in front of HCM City goal.
The two teams continued moving forwards in search of the winning goal, but there was no magic for either team as no players saw their names on the score sheet at the final whistle. — VNS