AFF U23 Championship: Wonder goal from Trung Thanh help Vietnam edge out Thailand 1-0 –

Vietnam churned out a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Thailand in the final group stage game of the ongoing AFF U23 Championship at the Prince Stadium, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Trung Thanh Nguyen (29′) scored a brilliant goal from a set piece that proved to be the difference-maker between the two teams.
Irrespective of the result, both Vietnam and Thailand progress to the knockouts. But it is the end of the road for hosts Cambodia as they trail to Thailand in the ranking of the best second-placed teams.
It was a lively start to the match with both the teams vying for the opener right from the first whistle. Thailand’s Kakana Khamyok drilled in an incisive through ball for Teerasak Poeiphimai who skipped past a couple of challenges before firing a shot at goal. But it was a too feeble attempt to beat Trinh Xuan Hoang under the sticks. A few minutes later, Vietnam responded in equal measure when Quoc Viet Nguyen had a crack at goal.
But as the game progressed, Golden Star Warriors started dominating proceedings. In the 21st minute, Bao Toan Tran, unleashed a swerving volley towards goal which forced the Thai keeper, Narongsak Nueangwongsa, to bring out his best to keep the scores unchanged.
The Nam Dinh’s men consistently upped the ante and their efforts were finally rewarded in the 29th minute when Trung Thanh Nguyen scored a mesmerizing free-kick. Although it was a tight angle for Trung Thanh the midfielder tried his luck and went for glory. His shot flew over the two-man human wall and dipped at the right time to pierce the net through the top corner of the first post leaving Nueangwongsa flat-footed.

After falling behind, Thailand started to show more urgency in attack. Kroekphon Arbram was making the right moves in the wide areas and was proving to be a difficult customer to deal with for Thanh Nhn Nguyen. In the 41st minute, Arbram tricked his marker once again and set up Poeiphimai in the six-yard box with an inch-perfect cross. But the striker could only shoot over the crossbar despite having the entire goal at his mercy with only the keeper to beat.
In the second half, Thailand continued their search for the equaliser with gusto but were struggling to find spaces in the attacking third. Vietnam maintained their defensive shape and remained disciplined at the back. Poeiphimai kept trying with shots from distance but his efforts were not good enough for the cause. In the 77th minute, skipper Anusak Jaiphet came close to erasing the deficit but his header from a corner kick went inches wide of the far post.
The War Elephants had a golden opportunity when Vietnam keeper Xuan Hoang spilled the ball while collecting a routine cross and the rebound fell for Khamyok. But the midfielder could not sort out his feet and could only manage a feeble attempt at goal which was subsequently cleared by the defence. Minutes later, Quang Thinh’s miscued clearance looked destined to bulge the net but Hoang redeemed himself of his earlier mistake with a fine reflex save.
Both teams will return to action on Thursday in the knockout stage of the tournament. Thailand will take on Laos in the first semi-final whereas Vietnam would clash against Timor Leste in the other fixture.
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