|Nguyễn Công Phượng in a match under Mito HollyHock’s jersey last year. He returns to be Hoàng Anh Gia Lai’s lead striker this V.League season. — Photo mito-hollyhock.net|
HÀ NỘI — Two former champions SHB Đà Nẵng and Hoàng Anh Gia Lai meet in the opening match of the V. League today, each seeking to regain some lost glory.
Hoàng Anh Gia Lai’s last V. League title was in 2004 while SHB Đà Nẵng won their tournament in 2009.
The eyes of national fans will be on the match, which promises to be the highlight of the first round, as their beloved player Nguyễn Công Phượng is back in action here under Hoàng Anh Gia Lai’s jersey after one year of competing in Japan.
His return is so hotly anticipated that the Việt Nam Television and the Việt Nam Professional Football Company, the manager of the tournament, have decided that at least seven matches, which include his team, will be aired live.
People are excitedly waiting to to see how Phượng has progressed after his training in Mito HollyHock FC in the J. League 2.
Hoàng Anh Gia Lai coaching board hopes that Phượng’s comeback, the growth of other players after two years in the V. League since they were 19, and some selected foreign players will help the club stand up against the tournament’s leading teams. They are even thinking of vying for the championship title against candidates such as Hà Nội FC, FLC Thanh Hóa and Quảng Ninh Coal.
“We have totally put our trust in him. He will be the leader on the front line,” said Nguyễn Tấn Anh, an official of the team.
"We are in a good mood and confident about the tournament. We are looking forward to a good result in the first match,” Phượng said.
There is another new name in the team’s line-up.
Halfback Mobi Fehr has signed a contract and is expected to fix Hoàng Anh Gia Lai’s problem in the defence.
“He is a clever player who can read the match. We hope he can do well with our team,” the coach, Nguyễn Quốc Tuấn said.
“My young players have practiced well and have had a good result from a warm-up tournament ahead of the V. League. We cannot wait any longer for the competition to start,” Tuấn said.
Coach Lê Huỳnh Đức appreciated his rivals although his SHB Đà Nẵng won three out of four meets between two sides in the previous seasons.
“Hoàng Anh Gia Lai are much stronger this year because their players have grown up and are more experienced after two years competing in the V. League. Their playing style creates a lot of difficulties for any rival,” said Đức.
“They are a team of players who know each other very well as they grew up together. They have now improved their physique a lot together playing with quality foreigners. They will pose a big challenge,” he said.
The former national striker referred to forward Nguyễn Văn Toàn and midfielder Vũ Văn Thanh who have been regular names on the national team recently.
Both of them were in the news in regional and continental football and sport websites after their outstanding performance at last month’s ASEAN Football Federation Cup.
After the first match, coach Đức has a problem on his hands with a spate of injuries to his side.
Key forward Võ Huy Toàn has a broken arm, his best scorer Gaston Merlo, who has just received his Vietnamese citizenship, could not play due to a broken toe, Võ Hoàng Quảng had a knee problem, and all of them need between several weeks to months to recover.
Meanwhile, players who arrive in Đà Nẵng this season such as Nguyễn Văn Thắng, Phan Văn Long, Võ Nhật Tân, Britez Ezezequiel David and Hà Đức Chinh have not made any impression in the V. League yet.
Despite these difficulties, former champions SHB Đà Nẵng still want to regain their glory again this season.
“Last year we were unlucky to take the trophy. It will be a strong force pushing us ahead. We always seek the title but we set a humble target of top three and will do our best,” President Bùi Xuân Hòa said.
Today, SHB Đà Nẵng will play on a new ground at Hòa Xuân Stadium, leaving behind their old home at 63-year-old Chi Lăng which was a ‘deadly ground’ for many rivals.
Hòa Xuân is a small venue with only 20,000 seats with the most advanced equipment.
Despite SHB Đà Nẵng’s home turf, it will be the first time here for both sides. — VNS