Goalkeeper Dương Quang Tuấn of Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh tries to block Viettel striker Nguyễn Việt Phong during their V.League 1 opener last weekend. Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh will play Nam Định this Saturday. — Photo vpf.vn
HÀ NỘI — Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh will hope for their first V.League 1 win against Nam Định on Saturday, despite playing away at Thiên Trường Stadium.
The top-flight newcomers Hà Tĩnh played well against Viettel last weekend, but a late mistake by goalkeeper Dương Quang Tuấn meant they lost by a goal to nil at home.
“The more we play, the better results we'll get,” said captain Lê Tấn Tài.
“In the coming match we will show a united and creative team, targeting a win and a long journey we will make sure we have a berth in the V.League by then end of this season,” he said.
Hà Tĩnh travelled to Nam Định immediately after their match against Viettel on March 9 as coach Phạm Minh Đức wanted his players to have time to get used to Thiên Trường’s grass pitch
“We have focused on perfecting our tactics and improving our fitness. We have tried to make them (the players) feel comfortable both training and playing so they will play at their peak against Nam Định,” Đức said.
While Nam Định is normally one of the tougher away trips in the league, due to the fear of the coronavirus all matches will be played behind closed doors, which should work in Hà Tĩnh's favour.
The away side's biggest task is to keep Nam Định’s striker Đỗ Merlo quiet after the naturalised Aregtinean netted a brace last week.
“To beat Nam Định, you need a solid defence who can lock down Merlo. Meanwhile, the midfielders must maintain possession and assist their defenders to block Nam Định’s attacks from an early stage,” said football coach Võ Hoàng of the provincial sports centre.
Hoàng added that Hà Tĩnh’s foreign forwards need to work harder to relieve the pressure on their teammates in defence.
On Sunday, HCM City FC will host Thanh Hóa, with foreign coaches in both dugouts.
While City’s South Korean coach Chung Hae-seong has been in Việt Nam for four years, Italy's Fabio Lopez of Thanh Hóa has only been in the country for a few months.
Both managers splashed the cash in the offseason, though only the home side can realistically challenge for the title.
City are in fine form having defeated Quảng Nam 3-1 last week and Lao Toyota in the AFC Cup 2-0 on Tuesday.
Apart from striker Nguyễn Công Phượng who is in good form, HCM City have used super-sub Nguyễn Xuân Nam to good effect so far. The top scorer of the V.League 2 last year came off the bench in both matches and scored a brace in each.
His outstanding performance in the AFC Cup on Tuesday impressed international media and he was listed as one of five best players in the round of fixtures by Fox Sports.
On the other side, Thanh Hóa lost 1-0 to Hải Phòng in their opening match, despite hosting the encounter.
Their hopes for on Sunday will again rest on the shoulders of foreigners and naturalised players such as Hoàng Vũ Samson and Grace Tanda. The duo combined for four goals in their seven friendly matches prior to the start of the season.
Elsewhere, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai will visit Viettel at Hàng Đẫy Stadium, defending champions Hà Nội will face Than Quảng Ninh at Cẩm Phả Stadium, Sông Lam Nghệ An and Becamex Bình Dương will meet in Vinh and SHB Đà Nẵng will entertain Sài Gòn. — VNS