Some timely reminders from Viettel

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Viettel’s Nguyễn Hoàng Đức (left), Pedro Paulo (middle) and Geovane Magno celebrate their win against Topenland Binh Dinh. Photo anninhthudo.vn

Peter Cowan

Unpredictability is one of the best things about football, and it took less than a week for a few of my bold V.League 1 predictions to leave egg on my face.

The first match day of the season saw a postponement as Thanh Hóa were unable to travel to face Hà Nội FC due to COVID-19 cases in their squad, leaving the possibility of a full league season being completed far from certain.

We’re not here to talk about COVID-19 though, instead it’s another prognostication that has me feeling sheepish.

Topenland Bình Định and Viettel FC had quite contrasting pre-seasons.

The former spent liberally and brought in star players aplenty, while Viettel lost two key starters in Quế Ngọc Hải and Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng to Sông Lam Nghệ An.

Viettel are still defending champions, lest we forget, but I had Bình Định as firm favourites to defeat them at home on Friday night on their way to mounting a title challenge.

While one game in is too early to write Bình Định off, I think we saw enough evidence in their 2-0 win to remind us that Viettel will be tough to unseat.

Although the home side had their chances and looked more threatening early on, Viettel relied on what took them to the title in 2020 to secure all three points.

Even without former Việt Nam captain Hải, their defence was dogged enough to keep Bình Định at bay, and at the other end they relied on some individual magic to nick a couple of goals.

The 70th minute opener from the head of captain Bùi Tiến Dũng came from Nguyễn Hoàng Đức’s delightful free-kick delivery. We all know how good Đức is (too good to still be playing here) but it was a vivid reminder.

The second goal came on the counter in the final seconds of added time as Brazilian forward Geovane Magno clipped the ball over an onrushing defender before chipping the goalkeeper.

It was a beautiful goal and again served as a timely reminder: Viettel have a potent forward partnership.

While Magno was deemed surplus to requirements at Hà Nội FC, he’s still one of the best foreigners in the league for my money and his partnership with fellow Brazilian Pedro Paulo is proven to be a deadly one at this level.

It wasn’t that long ago that Paulo and Magno were wreaking havoc for Sài Gòn FC as they surged to a shock third-place finish in 2020.

Reuniting a partnership that catapulted an otherwise ordinary team into title contention just two years ago may turn out to be a masterstroke for Viettel. VNS

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