Song Lam Nghe An became the new Vietnamese League champions Sunday at their home Vinh Stadium after drawing 1-1 with defending champions Hanoi T&T in the final round, ending a 10-year drought of the V-League title.
Song Lam Nghe An Club celebrate their 2011 Eximbank V-League title on Sunday, August 21, 2011 at their home Vinh Stadium (Photo: Vietnam News Agency)
“This is the Cup of life. The trophy is a present our team would like to donate to our big fans who have been following us during the past ten years,” Song Lam Nghe An coach Nguyen Huu Thang said via Vietnam Television’s live broadcasting from the stadium.
The coach, a Nghe An man, was speaking with tears after his club took the trophy from the former champions.
Hanoi T&T coach Phan Thanh Hung said, “We played very well today. We have also tried our best during the league but the result is not as expected. We’d like to congratulate Song Lam Nghe An.”
While the Hanoi club had to win to retain the title, the home side needed only one point to finish off their 10-year drought of title.
Nghe An fans were eager to see their club crowned champions again for the first time in ten years in their Vinh City, starting Sunday morning with a football-crazy atmosphere.
Just four minutes into the afternoon game, the home side scored from a mistake by the visiting side’s goalkeeper Duong Hong Son, a local man who serves the Hanoi club. Son managed to catch the ball from a low cross but the ball bounced off and striker Fargan fired from close range.
Hanoi T&T tried a lot in the rest of the make or break game, playing aggressively. Meanwhile, the home side, inspired by their fans, often conducted fast counter-attacks.
T&T coach Hung threw experienced midfielder Nguyen Hong Minh into the field after the break, while Nghe An were seeking to play slower than in the first half. Minh equalized with a shot from the edge of the penalty box in the 64th minute.
The visiting team kept attacking and created other chances but failed to convert. They could have defended their title if a striker Tavares free kick in the injury minutes had not hit the bar.
Song Lam Nghe An coach Thang held up the trophy as he did 10 years ago as a player of the central Vietnam club.
They won the 14-team, 26-round league with 49 points, followed by former champions Hanoi T&T with 46 points. SHB Danang, the 2009 champions, came third with 44 points.
Meanwhile, Hanoi ACB, another capital club, were relegated to the first division together with Dong Tam Long An from the southern province of Long An, a top-flight club a few years ago with two trophies in 2005 and 2006. Dong Tam also won the 2005 National Cup and 2006 Super Cup.
Replacing the two relegated clubs next season are first-division champions Saigon Xuan Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City and first runners-up Kien Long Bank from the Mekong province of Kien Giang.