After an all-conquering, triple-winning 2019 season, Hanoi FC’s title defence is in tatters.
|STRUGGLING: Hanoi FC’s Tran Van Kien on the ball against Viettel in the V.League 1 on Sunday. Photo courtesy of VPF|
The V.League 1 champions have taken eight points from a possible 18 since the restart of local football after the coronavirus-induced suspension of play and worse still, in June they lost twice in a row at home at Hang Day Stadium, after having not lost at home in the league since 2017.
The capital side find themselves in eighth position in the table on 11 points, making them just as close to bottom side Nam Dinh as they are to league leaders Sai Gon FC.
After being tipped by many (including this newspaper) to repeat their title success, what exactly has gone wrong for Hanoi?
Injuries are a problem every team has to deal with, but it’s fair to say Hanoi have been particularly snake-bitten this season.
Vietnamese national team stars Tran Dinh Trong, Do Duy Manh and Nguyen Quang Hai are all sidelined with varyingly severe injuries, while the team’s top striker Pape Omar Faye is also crocked.
The injury crisis has forced coach Chu Dinh Nghiem to call up several members of the club’s underage squads, with the defence particularly inexperienced.
After the 1-1 draw with capital rivals Viettel on Sunday, Nghiem lamented that he was down to only 13 fully-fit players, with three of them goalkeepers.
“We registered 28 V.League players but now there are not enough people to register for substitutes.
“We have only 13 perfectly healthy players (including three goalkeepers), but in the other cases, many players have some degree of injury.
“In that situation, one point against a strong opponent like Viettel is acceptable,” he said according to vov.vn.
Longtime Hanoi FC fan and the man the BBC called a Vietnamese football expert Bill George agrees with Nghiem’s assessment.
“It’s meaning quite a lot of the younger players in the squad are getting a chance to play which is great, but three of the back four are not regular starters,” he told Việt Nam News.
George also noted that Hanoi have struggled to adapt their tactics to playing without creative forces like Quang Hai and Faye and have persisted with a short passing game, without the players to run it effectively.
“Against Sai Gon they were lacking creativity and there’s no ‘Plan B’, they just keep trying to play the same pass it around and there was nothing else, all Sai Gon had to do was sit a bit deeper.”
Losing the aura of invincibility at Hang Day Stadium has also been a factor, according to George.
“With such an incredible home record and now it’s finally fallen, I think it gives other teams a bit of a boost every time they have Hanoi knowing that they are beatable,” he said.
It’s tough at the top and Nghiem’s side are taking every team’s best shot this season and with that comes added hurdles, as they found out when they were faced with a raucous and significantly over capacity crowd in the 1-1 draw away to Ha Tinh last month.
Whether getting the likes of Quang Hai and Faye back in the lineup is enough to catapult Hanoi back to the top of the table remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the pressure is on Nghiem and his charges to fulfill some high expectations. VNS
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