Who will Represent Vietnam in Toyota Mekong Club Championship 2016?
Vietnam professional football league, V.League 1, has only two matches to go and the defending champions Becamex Binh Duong have already lost their chance to win the championship title this season. This year, a new club will represent the V.League 1 in the Toyota Mekong Club Championship. After 24 fixtures, the contest for the top title of V.League 1 is still getting fiercer. Hanoi T&T, Than Quang Ninh, FC Hai Phong, and SHB Da Nang are the 4 teams competing for the championship, neck to neck. Out of them, Hanoi T&T, FC Hai Phong and Than Quang Ninh have 44 points each, and SHB Da Nang with 43 points, is only one point behind.
At the 24th fixture on 4th, September, Than Quang Ninh missed 2 points in the last minute in the away game with FLC Thanh Hoa, due to the blunder by goal keeper Huỳnh Tuấn Linh. With a 2-2 draw with Thanh Hoa, Than Quang Ninh lost the leading position to Hanoi T&T, and to secure their first-ever title, they must win the remaining two games. The task is highly challenging, as the next opponent is the leading team, Hanoi T&T in the 25th fixture, and Sanna Khanh Hoa in the last match. This will be their first opportunity to win the championship title, after joining the V.League 1 just 3 years ago.
At Hang Day stadium, the Vietnam National Team player Nguyễn Văn Quyết, scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot, defeating Sanna Khanh Hoa with 1-0 scoreline, helping Hanoi T&T get closer to another opportunity to secure their 3rd championship title after 7 years. Presently, Hanoi T&T tops the standings only by the goal difference as compared to Than Quang Ninh and FC Hai Phong. Chu Đình Nghiêm, their head coach, will have to face two difficult challenges, one with their nearest opponent, Than Quang Ninh, and the other with FLC Thanh Hoa. However, with a rich experience of chasing the honours this season, the team from the capital city knows how to grind out the results.
Having said that, Hanoi T&T have had a very inconsistent season. They suffered many consecutive losses due to a very poor performance, and even fell down to relegation zone. Although the above two teams have managed a small lead in the league table, it is still too soon to have clear favourites as FC Hai Phong and SHB Da Nang are chasing closely behind the top two.
Hai Phong, have had a glorious first stage with 7 consecutive wins, but they have not been able to hold their position in the second stage, and hence at this point of time, even if they manage to win the remaining 2 matches, their fate to be the champion will be decided by the results of the other teams. They will have to depend on other teams slipping up, in order to win the championship, which has never happened in their club history.
However, they will play their remaining games against Long An and Song Lam Nghe An, the teams that have lost their motivation in this season, and so the head coach Trương Việt Hoàng still believes that they have chances to bring back the championship trophy to Lach Tray home stadium, while Hanoi T&T and Than Quang Ninh fight against each other at the coming 25th fixture.
SHB Da Nang received rather negative reviews in the beginning of the season, because the team had a very unstable playing style. However, head coach Lê Huỳnh Đức, turned things around in the latter half of the season when he deployed foreign players, Gaston Merlo, Eydison as their strike force. Since then, the team has improved its performance significantly with 6 wins in the recent 9 games.
V.League 1 top scorer, Gaston Merlo performed brilliantly this season with 20 goals so far and now SHB Da Nang definitely has a reason to dream about their 3rd time championship title, after 2009 and 2012 season. Even though they are not the favourites among “the four horses”, in the remaining fixtures, they will face Hoang Anh Gia Lai and Dong Thap, the teams that lack strong motivation. Therefore, SHB Da Nang could get 6 points to put pressure on their opponents, and wait for them to slip up. The championship race has never been so fierce in the history of V.League 1. With only two matches left, there are still 4 contenders for the top title. For all the 4 teams, Hanoi T&T, Hai Phong, Than Quang Ninh and SHB Da Nang, it will be the first time to join the Toyota Mekong Club Championship.
Definitely more excitement is in store for the 3rd year of the Toyota Mekong Club Championship tournament.