Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA) won the 16th edition of the Thanh Nien-sponsored U21 National Football Championship on Friday, beating hosts Ninh Thuan 2-0 in the final.
The young SLNA players proved they are one of the country's best football training centers by keeping calm and launching dangerous attacks from the beginning despite more than 10,000 fans rooting for the home team.
They got the opener three minutes into the match with striker Nguyen Dinh Bao taking a superb pass from striker Le The Cuong on the left flank and getting it past Ninh Thuan's goalkeeper Nguyen Thanh Diep. The early goal encouraged SLNA players into launching even more attacks, forcing the hosts to focus on trying to stop their opponents and making it difficult to counter attack.
Fifteen minutes before half time The Cuong headed a perfect pass from Dinh Hoang on the right flank to double the score.
Ninh Thuan began to attack more, especially after the break, but SLNA defenders and goalkeeper Nguyen Manh were equal to the task, despite the hosts having the advantage of more men on the pitch after Dinh Hoang was sent off with a second yellow card for a handball midway through the second half.
Speaking after the match, Ninh Thuan coach Nguyen Quang Son said, "Conceding an early goal made it very hard for us. SLNA players were superb in terms of technical and strategic skills. In fact, our players can't be compared with them in experience. They deserved to be the winners."
SLNA coach Dinh Van Dung said, "I was surprised at the decline in form of the Ninh Thuan players today. They played superbly in the earlier two matches, but I don't know why they were worse today.
"I realized that Ninh Thuan left backs and right backs were not so good, so I asked my players to focus our attacks on the flanks. Anyway, I think SLNA deserved to be the winners."
The champions got a cash prize of VND250 million (about US$12,000) while the runners-up got VND120 million and Khatoco Khanh Hoa and Than Quang Ninh each got VND60 million for their third place finish. Khatoco Khanh Hoa players were also awarded the fair play title that carries a VND40 million cash prize.
Vu Quang Nam of SLNA was chosen best player of the contest, which carries a handsome cash prize of VND215 million. He also won another VND10 million as the best striker in the tournament with five goals. Nguyen Thanh Diep of Ninh Thuan was chosen the best custodian of the tournament and awarded VND10 million.
The SLNA players received a VND400 million reward from their own club, while Ninh Thuan players got VND150 million from beer producers Sabeco and Sagota and VND100 million from the Provincial Party Committee.