Midfielder Nguyen Vu Phong’s first half goal brought a ticket to the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals to defending champions Vietnam in their Wednesday game against Singapore in Hanoi.
Nguyen Vu Phong (L) scores the winning goal for Vietnam. (Photo: SGGP)
The title holders needed three points to go through while a draw was enough for three-time champions Singapore.
Both teams have understood about each other well as they have played quite a few times – both tournaments and friendly games.
In the Wednesday match, one of the two final games of Group B in the ASEAN championship, the Lions started playing defensively as their opponents attacked continuously. Then a balance came after around the first 20 minutes.
Singapore goalkeeper Hassan Sunny denied some Vietnam shots but failed to keep his net clean after half an hour in a Vietnam counter-attack. Singapore made a corner kick and a Vietnamese defender cleared the ball away. Midfielder Nguyen Trong Hoang initiated the counter-attack and Pham Thanh Luong sped up on the right wing. His low cross found Nguyen Vu Phong outside the penalty area. Goalie Sunny rushed out but Phong was just faster, scored with a finish by his toes.
Ten-man Vietnam were put under much heavier pressure from Singapore as Trong Hoang was sent off after his second yellow card following a rash challenge 10 minutes after the break.
The context made Vietnam goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong a hero as he denied all Singapore shots and headers with several brilliant saves. Truong, who sat on the bench in Vietnam’s first two group games, coped with Singapore high balls excellently. Vietnam coach Henrique Calisto said after the game that he used Truong for this game as he is taller than Duong Hong Son, the other keeper, and confronts high balls well.
The Portuguese tactician hailed his players at the press meeting after the game. “My players are the real heroes because in the three games they have given their maximum.
“When we have the capacity to attack, we attack and when we have the capacity to defend, we defend.”
He also expressed thanks to Vietnamese fans. “I must also congratulate the fans, who were exceptional, the support from them helped and they were very, very important for morale.”
In the day’s other match, the Philippines qualified as they drew 0-0 with Myanmar at Thien Truong Stadium in Nam Dinh, next to Hanoi.
Vietnam ranked first in Group B with six points, followed by the Philippines with five points (one win, two draws). Three-time champions Singapore gained four points (one win, one draw, one loss) and Myanmar got only one point.
Vietnam will take on Group A runners-up Malaysia on Dec 15 in an away game. The second leg is set for Dec. 18 in Hanoi.
Group A winners Indonesia will play the Philippines in two matches – home and away. However, no football stadiums in the Philippines are qualified under the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) criteria, and their home match must be in another country, which AFF is to name Thursday.