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|Striker Nguyễn Tiến Linh celebrates his goal to level the score at 2-2 for in the match against Thailand at the SEA Games on Thursday. VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Linh|
Coach Park Hang-seo’s men came into the final Group B match without their captain and star midfielder Nguyễn Quang Hải, who was ruled out due to an injury he sustained against Singapore on Tuesday, though they knew a draw would be enough to secure passage to the next round as group winners.
The game at Binan Football Stadium in the Philippines was played at a frenetic pace and early on it looked like curtains for Vietnam, as they gifted Thailand a two-goal lead in the first 11 minutes.
Goalkeeper Nguyễn Văn Toản was to blame for both goals, with the first coming after he kicked a clearance directly into Thailand forward Supachai Jaided, who simply watched the ball bounce off him and roll into the net five minutes in.
Six minutes later it was two, as Toản missed the ball completely when he came out to gather, allowing Suphanat Muenta to gleefully tap home.
Toản has been Vietnam’s starting custodian since Bùi Tiến Dũng gifted Indonesia a goal on Sunday with a blunder of his own.
The Vietnamese side could have allowed their heads to drop and let the game get away from them, but that’s not how coach Park’s team is built, and they quickly reduced the deficit.
In the 15th minute, Nguyễn Tiến Linh got his head on the end of Đỗ Thanh Thịnh’s superb cross from the left to cut the deficit in half.
The rest of the first half petered out after the frantic start and Vietnam went into the break still on track to qualify at 2-1 down, but knowing a single Thailand goal would send them home.
The second half started off a much more sedate affair, but exploded into life in the 68the minute.
After Thailand lost possession in the Vietnam half, Nguyễn Hoàng Đức scampered down the right and slid a pass into Linh, who was taken down in the box by Thailand’s Chatchai Saengdao for a somewhat soft penalty.
Defender Huỳnh Tấn Sinh took the penalty, but his tame effort was easily saved by Nont Muangngam and the rebound fired over the bar by substitute Hà Đức Chinh.
More controversy was to follow though, as the assistant referee adjudged the Thai goalkeeper to have come off his line too early, and the referee ordered the penalty be retaken.
The decision was harsh on Thailand, but there was no time for sympathy and Linh duly stepped up to the spot and sent Nont the wrong way to level the score.
The final 20 minutes were comfortable for Vietnam, with Thailand looking emotionally and physically exhausted, and when the final whistle went, the holders of the SEA men’s football title were knocked out, and Vietnam advanced.
They face Cambodia in the semi-final on Saturday and are two victories away from gold.