Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and HCM City FC both made winning starts to the 2020 V.League 1 season on Friday.
|Hoàng Anh Gia Lai players celebrate their only goal in a 1-0 win over Quảng Ninh in the first round of the V.League 1 on Friday. — Photo bongdaplus.vn|
Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) beat Than Quảng Ninh 1-0 on their home turf of Pleiku Stadium in Gia Lai Province while HCM City defeated former champions Quảng Nam 3-1 away at Quảng Nam Province’s Stadium.
Both matches were held behind closed doors to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Without skipper Nguyễn Tuấn Anh in the starting XI, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai struggled to control the game and let the visitors dominate the first half, though they couldn't make a breakthrough.
In the second half, national striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn on his first time wearing the captain's armband assisted striker Châu Ngọc Quang who opened the scoring in the 57th minute.
Toàn pounced on a loose pass from Quảng Ninh midfielder Mạc Hồng Quân, skipped past goalkeeper Huỳnh Tấn Linh and squared it to Quang who tapped in easily.
The visitors threw bodies forward after conceding against the run of play, but they couldn't breach the HAGL defence.
Nearly 300km from Pleiku, HCM City FC came from behind late on to beat Quảng Nam with all goals scored in the second half.
Lucas Rocha opened the scoring with a header for the hosts 17 minutes after the interval, but just five minutes later the 2019 V.League 1 runners-up were level through Ngô Viết Phú.
With time winding down, substitute Nguyễn Xuân Nam stepped up and was the hero for City, netting a brace in the 88th and 95th minute marks to secure all three points.
Elsewhere, Hà Nội will start their title defence today when they host Nam Định at home while the four other matches will be on Sunday.
Coach Chu Đình Nghiêm confirmed Hà Nội will play without three key injured players, namely defenders Trần Đình Trọng and Đỗ Duy Mạnh and star midfielder Nguyễn Quang Hải in their season opener.
With the sudden absence of Mạnh after suffering a torn knee ligament last week in the National Super Cup, young player Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh looks set to replace his senior teammate.
“He played pretty well in the National Super Cup match after Mạnh was sidelined,” said Nghiêm when asked about the substitute.
“Nam Định is a tough team for Hà Nội. Last year, we lost to them in the first half of the season. We won the second meeting but it was really a lucky game for us. This year, they have added quality players. It means that they will be stronger. They just won a friendly tournament ahead of the V.League 1. They are a secret of this year's league,” said Nghiêm.
Nghiêm said he was also concerned playing without spectators would influence the quality of the game and the playing style of his players.
He said playing without supporters was like torture and he hoped league organisers would allow fans to attend matches soon while ensuring their safety.
He suggested that doctors could be at the stadium to check their temperatures while supporters could be provided face masks and hand sanitiser at the entrances. — VNS
The 2020 V.League 1 season is almost upon us and (coronavirus permitting) matches will kick off coming week.
After being postponed due to the fears surrounding the potential spread of coronavirus, V.League 1 will kick off today behind closed doors due to the virus, with the marquee fixture Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) against Than Quang Ninh.