HÀ NỘI Coach Kiatisak Senamuang insisted he wasn't thinking about the title after his Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) side trounced defending champions Viettel 3-0 on Wednesday at the Hàng Đẫy Stadium.
Striker Nguyễn Công Phượng opened the scoring just four minutes after being brought on as a substitute in the second half.
Defender Vũ Văn Thanh then scored a brace to seal the huge win for the visitors.
Speaking to reporters at the post-match briefing, the Thai coach said he made several changes to his first-team which was key to the victory at Hàng Đẫy, a ground HAGL have been poor at for many years.
"I have seen videos of matches between two teams in the past. Then, I decided to let Nguyễn Trung Đại Dương start from the beginning and kept Phượng for the second half. I brought a good result," said Senamuang.
"It is difficult to play on away ground as you can see we could have only one point in the previous match against Hà Tĩnh. Prior to the match, I told my players, three points from this match would help us be more confident. And to win we have to fight together. And we made it," he said.
The Thai 'Zico' called Phượng a talented striker who faced high pressure due to the high expectations placed upon him.
The opener was the national team star's first goal this season but his coach said the most important thing was to help his team win, not to score a goal.
"I was a striker and I understand his situation. He understands my advice and feels free to compete," Senamuang said.
HAGL now lead the league with 10 points after five matches but the Thai legend said it was not time to think about silverware yet.
On the other side, coach Trương Việt Hoàng of Viettel was stunned by the loss.
"I just thought we could concede a goal but it could not be a 3-0 loss," said Hoàng.
"Hoàng Anh Gia Lai play rapid football and their counter-attack is good. After the second goal, I asked players to focus to avoid a big loss, but we failed.
"Some positions in my team played below expectations. The left-wing has a problem, they could not stop striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn breaking in, while some others have not yet recovered from injuries," he said
Hoàng then denied Phượng's appearance in the second half was the turning point of the game.
"In that situation, my defenders could not get back quickly but they covered the line of sight of the goalkeeper Trần Nguyên Mạnh. Phượng scored a good technical goal that Mạnh stretched for but could not stop," he said.
Hoàng said the win showed HAGL's progress under such a good coach like Senamuang who was smart and understands Vietnamese football.
He insisted the defeat would not destroy his team's spirit and they will keep battling for points.
Viettel are now ninth with seven points.
HAGL were the only visitors to win on Wednesday.
Earlier, Becamex Bình Dương beat Sài Gòn 1-0; Quảng Ninh won 2-0 over Thanh Hóa; and Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh enjoyed their first win with a 1-0 triumph against Hải Phòng. VNS