Vietnam finish as runners-up at AFC U23 Championship

Saturday, 2018-01-27 19:16:58
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Despite cruel weather, Vietnamese players did their best. (Photo: AFC)
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NDO – Vietnam U23 could not lift their first-ever AFC trophy after losing 1-2 on aggregate to Uzbekistan in the final of the AFC U23 Championship 2018 at Changzhou Olympic Sports Centre in Changzhou, China on January 27.

Inspired by two miraculous victories over Iraq (in the quarterfinals) and Qatar (in the semifinals), Vietnam U23 had been expected to continue creating the biggest miracle of this year’s tournament in their decisive match against Uzbekistan.

However, substitute Andrey Sidorov’s goal in the final minute of extra-time deterred Park Hang-seo’s side from taking the top honour overall despite their brave performance throughout the 120 minutes of play.

It took time for Vietnamese players to get familiar with playing in the snowy weather, and Uzbekistan took the chance to pocket an early advantage after only eight minutes. From a cornerkick by Dostonbek Khamdamov in the left wing, Rustamjon Ashurmatov fired a cunning header from close range that found the bottom right corner.

In the following minutes, Uzbekistan maintained their ball possession and threatened the Vietnamese side a number of times with long-range strikes, most notably the left-footed attempt by Dostonbek Khamdamov in the 19th minute, which forced goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung to make a smart block.

Vietnam U23 pushed hard to equalise the score, but failed create any clear-cut opportunities.

Starting lineups of both teams. (Photo: AFC)

With five official minutes left to go in the first half, Vietnam was awarded a freekick right outside the penalty box after Cong Phuong was fouled by Dostonbek Tursunov.

Quang Hai, the hero of Vietnam in the semifinal clash against Qatar, once again proved his value with a successful converter. From a distance of 20 metres, the Hanoi T&T midfielder took a little run up, belting a beautiful curler over the wall and into the top right corner, leaving no chance for Uzbekistani keeper Botirali Ergashev to block.

This is the fifth goal that Quang Hai has scored so far in this year’s competition.

Hai’s equaliser helped to relieve pressure from Park Hang-seo’s side, encouraging Vietnam U23 to play comfortably and confidently in the remainder of the first 45 minutes. However, no more goals were scored despite concerted efforts from both sides.

Half-time statistics for Vietnam versa Uzbekistan (Photo: AFC)

Uzbekistan threatened to score two minutes after the interval, with Vietnam keeper Tien Dung alertly flying to save a left-footed strike from outside the box.

Seven minutes later, the FLC Thanh Hoa goalie again proved himself as one of the best keepers of the tournament with excellent reflex, saving Vietnam U23 from a second goal by blocking a close-range strike by Uzbekistan’s no. 10 player, Javokhir Sidikov.

In the 58th minute, Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo put Ha Duc Chinh onto the field in replacement of Duc Huy, aiming to strengthen the power of the attack line.

Both teams shared ball possession in the following minutes, with goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung making a brilliant save right at the goal line in the 76th minute before Uzbekistani Zabikhillo Urinboev’s left-footed shot from the centre of the box going over the crossbar six minutes later.

The 1-1 draw remained unchanged until the final whistle, forcing the match into extra-time.

Keeper Bui Tien Dung alertly blocked a powerful long-range rocket from Azizjon Ganiev in the 97th minute, but failed to prevent substitute Sidorov from scoring a later winner in the last minute of extra time to seal an aggregate 2-1 victory for Uzbekistan.

Vietnamese fans look sad after their favourite team concede the second goal. (Photo: Vnexpress)