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The capital team headed into the match knowing that they needed to beat their opponents in order to reclaim the top spot from Ho Chi Minh City, who recorded a convincing 2-0 victory over former champions Becamex Binh Duong earlier on Saturday.
The three-point mission had been considered an easy task for Nghiem and his players, as the guests Khanh Hoa were struggling at the bottom of the V.League table with only two wins since the beginning of the season.
Hanoi FC played offensively right from the start and produced constant threats to the away side, with Quang Hai firing a long-range strike that forced keeper Tuan Manh to make a smart save after just seven minutes, and Van Hau heading the ball wide a few minutes later.
Despite their dominance in the remainder of the first half, the reigning champions could not capitalise on any of the created opportunities to open the scoring. Meanwhile, Sanna Khanh Hoa were denied a goal before halftime, as Dai Duong’s attempt was ruled offside by the referee.
Seven minutes after the break, the deadlock was broken for Hanoi FC thanks to an own goal of Zarour, who unexpectedly headed the ball home after an annoying left-wing cross from Hanoi midfielder Quang Hai.
Pape Omar almost doubled the hosts’ advantage in the 75th minute, but his decisive header was stopped by Khanh Hoa keeper Tuan Manh.
Hanoi FC midfielder Thanh Luong in action during the match. (Photo: NDO/Tran Hai)
Despite creating fewer opportunities, the visitors surprisingly equalised the score nine minutes from stoppage time, with Huu Khoi bursting down into the box and slotting the ball past Hanoi goalie Van Cong.
However, Khanh Hoa’s joy was short-lived, as only five minutes later Pape Omar stole the ball from Huu Khoi and shot past Tuan Manh to restore Hanoi FC’s lead.
While it appeared to be another disappointing defeat for manager Vo Dinh Tan’s side, Tan Dien blasted an accurate header in stoppage time to level the match 2-2, securing a precious point for Sanna Khanh Hoa BVN.
The draw against title favourites Hanoi FC was not enough to help Khanh Hoa create any breakthrough in the table, but it could be considered a source of motivation for Vo Dinh Tan and his players in the remaining stage of the title race.
Meanwhile, by dropping the victory in the last minutes, Hanoi FC were again beaten into second place, just one point behind leaders Ho Chi Minh City.
At Hoa Xuan Stadium, hosts SHB Da Nang came from behind to tie 1-1 with Hai Phong FC. The away draw extended Hai Phong’s winless run to eight games in a row and pushed Truong Viet Hoang’s side down to 12th place with 16 points.
Quang Ninh Coal further solidified their third place in the table after trouncing Hoang Anh Gia Lai with three unanswered goals from Hai Huy (10’) and Dyachenko (18’, 75’).