Vietnam won the AFF U23 Championship after beating Thailand 1-0 in the final at the Morodok Techo Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Saturday evening. The solitary goal of the match was scored by Tran Bao Toan (45′) just before the half-time whistle which proved to be enough in the end.
However, it was Thailand who were on the prowl right from the beginning. They were making the most of the wide areas to trouble Vietnam’s backline through Kroekphon Arbram on the right and Woradach Boonmakhajornkit on the left. The wingers looked in a good rhythm and were putting in the crosses with Thanawut Pochai as the target-man.
Nonetheless, it took almost 24 minutes to carve out the first significant opportunity and it was due to some individual brilliance of Thanawut Phochai. The striker dribbled past a couple of defenders and pulled the trigger from just outside the penalty box which beat Tuan Hung. However, the ball struck the woodwork and came back to play which was then collected by the keeper.
Thailand continued to be in the ascendancy for the bulk of the first half and in the 37th minute Thanawat Saipetch had a go from 25 yards out but this time the shot-stopper was up to the task as he tipped the ball away to safety that was set to bulge the net.
However, in the final five minutes, Vietnam found a foothold and started dominating proceedings. After a neat interplay of passes, skipper Dung Quang Nho cut inside from the left and tried to score with a curved effort through the far post. However, Narongsak Nueangwongsa who had little to do in the entire half showed his flexibility by stretching every muscle of his body to get a palm to it.
But from the ensuing corner, Vietnam scored the opener when Toan’s looping header bulged the net. The flag-kick was half-heartedly punched by Narongsak which allowed Phan Tuan Tai to put the ball into the mix once again. Despite being marked by two Thai defenders, Toan rose the highest and kept his header beyond the reach of the keeper.
The Golden Star Warriors could have had their insurance goal in the 56th minute when Vo Nguyen Hoang rifled a shot from distance but Narongsak intervened to keep the scoreline unchanged. He continued to be in the thick of things and once again denied Hoang and this time by narrowing down the angle in a one-on-one situation.
In the final quarter of the match, Salvador Garcia’s men threw all their resources in the tank in search of an equaliser. Sattawas Leela’s free-kick was about to ripple the net through the top corner but Tuan Hung’s diving save denied him glory. Thailand kept piling pressure on Vietnam’s backline until the final whistle but their efforts were not enough to stop Dung Quang Nho from lifting silverware.
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