Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Despite of having only one well-known player in their line-up, Quảng Nam FC are on the verge of winning the V.League title for the first time.
The star player is midfielder Đinh Thanh Trung, who is a member of the current national team. However, other key players such as Hà Minh Tuấn, Phan Thanh Hưng and foreign midfielder Thiago are not sought after in the transfer market.
After the 21st round matches on Sunday, the central regional club are placed on top with 38 points. It is not the first time they have led the national premier league this season, but this time their chances are higher as there are only five rounds left.
Previously, the race to win the title saw two "contenders" – defending champions Hà Nội FC and the rich and ambitious FLC Thanh Hóa.
Both two teams have strong line-ups and secured the two top spots right from the start of the league. Thanh Hóa under coach Ljupko Petrovic, who won the Champions League Cup in 1991, have shown they deserve to be No 1 as they have maintained the leading position for most of the tournament.
However, just when the league is coming to an end, both teams have made mistakes, losing points unexpectedly.
During their meet last weekend, considered an "early final" of the tournament, six goals were scored, divided equally for the two sides. With the draw result, both teams collected only one point each, slowing each other in the race for the title.
Their key players were called to serve the national teams and some of them returned with injuries, one of the primary reasons that has strongly affected their performance in recent matches.
Meanwhile, Quảng Nam have step by step approached the top three positions, with four wins from five matches since September, the best result among V.League’s 14 participants. An important win for them was against Thanh Hóa on September 17.
On Sunday, they beat Cần Thơ 2-0 and it was enough for them to take the lead, having the same number of points as Thanh Hóa but with better results in their meets this season.
“I, the coaching board, the players and the supporters are happy as we are now on top of the table. It is difficult to describe the feeling,” coach Hoàng Văn Phúc said.
“It is due to our efforts to improve physique and spirit. Players understand each other, they are comfortable and confident even when they compete on away ground."
With the V.League organisers applying a new ranking rule in its competitions, where results from the matches between the teams concerned are given more importance than the results, Quảng Nam will be the winners of the league if they can win their last five matches.
Speaking with reporters, coach Phúc said his team’s target is No 6 this season, but he would not lose any opportunity to win the trophy.
“We will plan carefully and try our best in every match for the best result. When opportunity knocks at the door, no one wants to miss it, and we don’t either,” he said.
The Hanoian trainer however predicted that the upcoming matches would be difficult for his team.
“I think it will be a tough tournament and the winner can only be decided in the last round because, currently, the teams are close in the number of points. Quảng Nam, at the top, have only six points more than Hải Phòng, who are No 7. Everyone is in with a chance. If we make mistakes, we will be ousted immediately,” Phúc said.
“In my opinion, besides Quảng Nam, Thanh Hoá, Hà Nội and Quảng Ninh are the favourites to win the title.”
In the last fixtures, they will play Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, SHB Đà Nẵng, Quảng Ninh Coal, Hà Nội and HCM City FC. They will play three matches on home turf.
Among these rivals, Hà Nội and Quảng Ninh are the difficult teams, but both lost to Quảng Nam in the first leg matches.
Quảng Nam tied 1-1 with former champions SHB Đà Nẵng and HCM City.
Đà Nẵng are in eighth place in the middle of the table. They will now just try to secure the third position. Their recent results are one loss, two draws and one win.
HCM City, who are two rungs below Đà Nẵng, have not displayed a consistent performance in the last five games, with two wins sandwiched between two losses and one draw.
Against five rivals, Quảng Nam have only lost 0-1 to Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, who are now struggling to avoid relegation.
“There are five matches to go. Three of our rivals -- Quảng Ninh, Hà Nội and Đà Nẵng -- are those who are competing for the top three spots. Hoàng Anh Gia Lai have a new coach and new technical director who will push them to a higher level, while HCM City want to win to cement their position,” Phúc said.
“We will not set any other target for the team because it will put heavy pressure on the players. We are first focusing on next week’s match against Hoàng Anh Gia Lai.”
Quảng Nam will welcome back Thiago after weeks of injury. He is ready for the upcoming match. Phúc believes the Brazilian will help strengthen the defence in the decisive period of the tournament.
“We have to prepare our players so that they are in the best shape this weekend. We are seeking wins, which will help us decide our fate this season,” he said. — VNS