Viettel are Vietnam’s new football champions

By Staff reporters   November 8, 2020 | 05:58 pm PT
Viettel are Vietnam’s new football champions
Viettel FC players lift the V. League 1 trophy after beating Saigon FC 1-0 in the final game of the season on November 8, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.
Viettel FC won their first ever V. League 1 title on Sunday with a 1-0 victory against Saigon FC.

As the title race with second-placed Hanoi FC had become agonizingly close – only two points separated them before the last round of matches -- they needed to win against Saigon FC.

Even a draw could have let Hanoi grab the trophy if they beat Than Quang Ninh in the last fixture.

Viettel began the match cautiously, playing a possession game with a deep defensive line and waiting to attack on the break. In the 18th minute, they got what they needed. From a free-kick on the right, midfielder Nguyen Hoang Duc crossed it in to Bruno Cantanhede and the Brazilian striker beat the goalkeeper off a difficult header.

The goal made it easy for Viettel to shut down the match and sit on their lead.

Their center-backs Que Ngoc Hai and Bui Tien Dung, both national team players, had a good game, making a number of vital interceptions and clearances. Goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh proved to be solid in the air.

In the second half, despite losing two key players, Viettel clung to their lead until the end. Saigon did not seem to put in too much effort since they were sure of third place.

Meanwhile, Hanoi thrashed Quang Ninh 4-0 to finish in second place the same night. Quang Ninh were fourth.

Viettel finished with 41 points from 12 wins, five draws and three losses. They won the most games this season and also conceded the fewest goals, 16, the same as Hanoi. They were in dazzling form in the second leg of the season, winning 19 out of 21 games. Cantanhede was their top scorer with eight goals in 19 games.

It was the first title for many national team players like Ngoc Hai, Hoang Duc, Tien Dung, and Nguyen Manh.

But for veteran Nguyen Trong Hoang, it was the fourth. He had won with two different teams earlier, Song Lam Nghe An in 2001 and Becamex Binh Duong in 2014 and 2015.

He said: "I agreed to play for Viettel in 2019 because they were a team with many young players and needed someone with experience. I think I made the right decision."

Viettel FC head coach Truong Viet Hoang celebrates after his clubs title victory in November 9, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.

Viettel FC head coach Truong Viet Hoang celebrates after his club's V.League 1 title victory on November 9, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.

Viettel head coach Truong Viet Hoang said: "I couldn’t watch the last minutes of the game because the feeling was indescribable. Viettel deserved this victory. The whole team united and overcome obstacles together.

"The toughest period was in the second leg when the pressure of the title race was upon us, but we nailed it.

"Twenty two years ago I won the league as a player and now as a coach. I feel so special and honored to achieve that."

Viettel ended Hanoi's domination of the league, which they had won in 2018 and 2019.

They received prize money of VND3 billion ($129,570) and direct entry to the group stage of Asia’s top-flight AFC Champions League next year.

Hanoi received VND1 billion and Saigon, VND750 million. They will represent Vietnam in the second-tier AFC Cup.

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