Yee Chun Leong
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Vietnam triumph with final minute goal
IT WAS total heartbreak for Brunei after Vietnam came away with all three points following a goal late into injury time for a 2-1 victory in Group B of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) last night at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.
On a day celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries, Cao Xuan Thang broke the hearts of all Brunei football fans by heading home a Nguyen Van Manh corner kick in the final minute of the match.
Present to watch the game was His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.
Also in attendance were Their Royal Highnesses Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, the Honorary President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) and Prince 'Abdul Malik.
The victory also boosts the pre-tournament favourites' chances on making it into the next round with seven points from three games while Brunei only have three points to their name after two outings.
Brunei came out the better team and were focused, going on the attack early.
Hitman Adi Said got the home crowd into a frenzy early after he stunned the Vietnamese side with a goal by heading in a corner from captain Md Najib Hj Tarif in the fourth minute.
They could have doubled their lead just minutes later but a cross by Abd Mu'iz Sisa from the left failed to connect with any of the Bruneian players.
Vietnam almost levelled in the 18th minute after Van Manh had beaten Brunei goal keeper Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi Yussof with his freekick but saw his effort bounce off the post.
It was a blow for the hosts when Md Hendra Azam Md Idris was stretchered off the field in the 21st minute after a strong challenge by Vietnam.
Md Shafie Hj Md Effendy was called in to take over the duties of the midfielder.
The match was physical with the whistle getting blown often, preventing both teams from gaining momentum.
Vietnam came close to equalising in the 36th minute after Xuan Thang whipped in a cross just for Md Azwan Ali Rahman to deflect it towards his own goal but Md Fakhrul was at the right place at the right time to make the save.
Vietnam came out a different side after the break and were playing at a fast pace.
It paid off in the 53rd minute after poor defending by the Bruneian backline saw Phan Dinh Thang equalise from inside the box.
A small Vietnamese crowd started getting behind their team and Brunei found themselves struggling to cope with their opponents' crosses.
Brunei could have easily gone back in front but were wasteful as they had three shot opportunities in the span of three minutes.
Adi should have put Brunei ahead in the 73rd minute but saw his shot cleared off the line by a Vietnamese defender.
Md Azwan had the second attempt but his effort was denied by the post.
Adi had another golden opportunity in the 75th minute but failed to convert in a one-on-one situation against Vietnam keeper Le Van Nghia.
The home team were also fortunate to not lose Md Azri Zahari on a rough tackle on Xuan Thang in the 88th minute.
The match was heading for a draw before Xuan Thang made the Sultanate pay the price.
"We had an inexperienced team out in the first half and they were going for the long ball. We didn't get many chances but we managed to make several changes in the second half for good passing and control to create more chances," said Pham Nhu Thuan, the assistant coach of Vietnam, in a post-match press conference.
"We now have seven points from three games and I believe that we have a good chance on making it into the semi-finals," he added.
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