HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam have in all to do in the second leg of the AFF Cup semi-final, after losing 2-0 to Thailand in the first bout at the Singapore National Stadium on Thursday evening.
Coach Park Hang-seo sprang one major surprise with his team selection, giving pacy forward Nguyễn Văn Toàn his first start of the tournament.
On a pitch in poor condition, the match started with Thailand taking the initiative, their rapid passing leaving Việt Nam’s defenders on the back foot.
Việt Nam conceded their first goal of the tournament in the 13th minute, when Thailand’s star player Chanathip Songkrasin took advantage of a slip in defence by Nguyễn Phong Hồng Duy and got to the ball before the onrushing Vietnamese goalkeeper Trần Nguyên Mạnh.
Shellshocked, Việt Nam were 2-0 down just 10 minutes later after a display of scintillating passing football gave Chanathip a sight of goal. The Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo made no mistake and slotted home.
Việt Nam almost pulled a goal back in the 33rd minute when Nguyễn Quang Hải shot from range with a free-kick, but the ball crashed off the post and flew to safety.
The Vietnamese had a decent shout for a Thai red card in the waning minutes of the opening period when goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom took down the onrushing Văn Toàn miles out of his goal, but the referee only brandished yellow.
Coach Park brought on attackers Nguyễn Tiến Linh, Hà Đức Chinh and Phan Văn Đức in a bid to get back into the game.
Chances did come Việt Nam’s way, most notably a shot from Quang Hải which hit the woodwork again, and a wonderful chance for Văn Đức who should have scored when played in by the superb Quang Hải, but he shot wide.
Thailand looked dangerous on the counter and one breakaway resulted in Supachai Chaided winning a penalty after he was brought down by Đỗ Duy Mạnh inside the box.
Chanathip stepped up with his hat-trick beckoning, but he put a poor penalty straight down the middle which goalkeeper Nguyên Mạnh saved easily.
In the last minutes, Việt Nam had one decent shout for a penalty late on when a Thai defender handled the ball in the penalty area. The referee waved away the Vietnamese protests and soon after ended the match.
The defeat was the first time Coach Park’s Việt Nam have ever lost so a fellow Southeast Asian side. The Korean and his players have left themselves a mountain to climb in the second leg on Boxing Day. — VNS