|Fine form: Midfielder Nguyen Ngoc Duy (left) steers the ball away from Arema Indonesia's Ahmad Bustomi. Duy scored twice to secure a win for Ha Noi T&T. — Photo Manh Hoang
HA NOI (VNS)— Midfielder Nguyen Ngoc Duy scored twice to lock in a glorious victory for hosts Ha Noi T&T during a match against Arema Indonesia in Ha Noi yesterday afternoon.
In the final Group F match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup at Hang Day Stadium, Ha Noi T&T defeated their Indonesian rivals 2-1, cementing the Group's top spot.
Prior to the decisive match, Ha Noi T&T had maintained a modest lead with 12 points after five matches with Arema Indonesia in close second on 10 points. The hosts only needed a tie to top Group F and defend the chance to play on home turf in the quarterfinals.
Coach Phan Thanh Hung's team has been eyeing the top spot and entered the match with an impressive lineup, including midfielders Nguyen Van Quyet and Pham Thanh Luong, defender Nguyen Van Bien, and forward Gonzalo Marronkle among other names.
Midfielders Cao Sy Cuong and Bui Van Hieu were unable to play due to injuries.
The hosts mounted an aggressive attack on the right wing with the crowd erupting in just the third minute as Van Quyet advanced from the left wing to miss an attempt from inside the penalty area.
Despite a number of attempts by Ha Noi T&T, Arema Indonesia forward Cristian Gonzales stunned the home team in the 14th minute, with a swift goal from the edge of the penalty zone.
Despite the blow, Ha Noi T&T regrouped and carried out a drastic counter-attack, missing multiple opportunities to even the score. A near-perfect set up by Thanh Luong saw Gonzalo head the ball past Van Quyet into the net but Chinese referee Fan Qi ruled it offside.
However, momentum shifted considerably in the second half with tireless efforts from Ha Noi T&T's Ngoc Duy netting a successful penalty at the 66th minute to even the score.
Buoyed by the shift, the home side mounted a vicious attack on the right flank which saw the ball flung towards the Arema Indonesia goal posts. In an almost surprise attack, Duy netted a second goal to put the hosts at a 2-1 win.
The win puts Ha Noi T&T in first place in Group F with 15 points, followed by Arema Indonesia. Ha Noi T&T will play Nay Pyi Taw of Myanmar at Hang Day Stadium on May 14.
"Our players were in the full swing of things at the beginning, but then the early score by the rivals seemed to hold them back. In the second half, the situation greatly improved, especially when they shot to score," Vietnamese coach Hung said.
Meanwhile, coach Suharno of Arema admitted that while Arema Indonesia had played well in the first half the side failed to sustain momentum in the second half.
"After the first loss, we made some changes, however, the developments did not go smoothly," Suharno said through an interpreter. "Ha Noi T&T deserves this win and the top position [in Group F]." — VNS