PHNOM PENH — Việt Nam’s U23s reached the final of the AFF Championships on Thursday, but only after a nervy semi against Timor Leste.
After 90 minutes and extra time, the tie was deadlocked at 0-0, and a penalty shoot-out was needed to determine the winner.
Goalkeeper Đặng Tuấn Hưng stepped up to the plate, and saved the decisive penalty to send the young golden star warriors into the final.
Việt Nam will face Thailand in the final on Saturday, after the Thais beat Laos by two goals to nil.
Việt Nam’s Young Warriors applied pressure right from the get-go, hoping for an early goal. Chances came for Vũ Đình Hai, Trần Bảo Toàn and Võ Nguyên Hoàng, but their shots failed to trouble the Timor goalkeeper.
Việt Nam were again solid in defence and there were no dangerous chances for Fabio Magrao’s men in the goalless first half.
Early on in the second half, Việt Nam’s captain Đoàn Anh Việt went down with an injury and had to be replaced, leaving Coach Nam with only one substitute in the last twenty minutes of the game, a goalkeeper.
Việt Nam piled on the pressure but could not find the early goal they craved. Timor also had a clear chance in the 62nd minute when Paulo Gali was put through on goal, but Đặng Tuấn Hưng was able to save the 17-year-old’s shot.
In the final minutes, Việt Nam pushed forward and Nguyên Hoàng had two great chances, but the Phố Hiến striker could not convert and the match went in to extra time.
On 98 minutes, one of football’s strangest occurrences happened as substitute goalkeeper Trần Liêm Điều came on as an outfield player to replace forward Trung Thành who went down injured. Điều, however, was not able to make a great impact and the match had to be decided on penalties.
In the penalty shoot-out, all five Vietnamese players kept their nerve and scored, while third-choice goalkeeper Tuấn Hưng made a crucial save to put Việt Nam through to their first ever AFF Under-23s Championship final, where they will once again face local rivals Thailand.
“My teammates and I had nothing to lose today,” said hero keeper Tuấn Hưng after the match. “That was our mentality in the shoot-out. I would like to thank all of the supporters who have inspired us to give our all.” — VNS