Ha Noi FC all but sealed the V.League 1 crown on Sunday as they came from behind to beat local rivals Viettel 5-2 after second-placed HCM City dropped points.
|Ha Noi FC's Nguyen Quang Hai celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal during the match against Viettel yesterday. Ha Noi won 5-2. – VNA/VNS Photo Trong Dat|
The win at the closed-doors Hang Day Stadium in the capital means the defending champions sit on 49 points, seven clear of HCM City, who drew 1-1 away to Nam Dinh earlier the same day.
Ha Noi were forced to play in an empty stadium after being censured for flare trouble in their last outing against Nam Dinh. However they still received loud support from fans who set up screens and speakers outside the ground.
The pressure of the crucial encounter was evident early, as the home side got off to a disastrous start. Bruno Cantanhede netted twice for Viettel in the first half, scoring a penalty 15 minutes in and a simple finish in the 39th minute after two Ha Noi's mistakes.
It looked like it just wasn't going to be the home side's night when Pape Omar Faye's tame penalty was easily saved by goalkeeper Xuan Son in the 43rd minute.
Things changed in the second period as Ha Noi got off the canvas and started landing body blows.
Just three minutes from the interval, talented midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai whipped in a corner which Nguyen Thanh Chung headed home.
The turning point when Viettel’s national team midfielder Nguyen Trong Hoang was sent off for his second yellow card in the 59th minute, opening the floodgates.
Just two minutes later netted Hai stepped up and fired home a trademark free-kick to equalise.
Captain Nguyen Van Quyet then scored a penalty in the 63rd minute before Hai completed his double in the 66th from just inside the box.
Chung put the icing on the cake with a tap in at the death.
The final whistle sent the fans outside, players and club officials alike into ecstasy, knowing a win against Song Lam Nghe An on Thursday will see them crowned champions.
Earlier, HCM City could only muster a 1-1 draw away to Nam Dinh at Thien Truong Stadium.
The first half saw no goals for either side as the southern side chased the win they needed to keep their title hopes alive.
However it was the hosts who drew first blood, Pereira Diogo Junior scoring in the 59th minute.
It took until the 85th minute for HCM City to equalise, Nguyen Hoang Thien scoring from long range, but it was too little too late.
In other fixtures yesterday, Quang Ninh defeated Thanh Hoa 3-1 to maintain third position while Song Lam Nghe An trounced three-time champions Becamex Binh Duong 5-1 to jump to No 4.