AFC U-23 Championship: Vietnam march on into final

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Vietnam are remarkably through to the final of the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship after beating Qatar on penalties following a 2-2 draw in Tuesday’s semi-final at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Centre.

It was the Qataris who opened the scoring six minutes before halftime when Akram Afif converted from the penalty spot, after Almoez Ali had been dragged down inside the box at a set-piece.

However, Nguyen Quang Hai equalised in the 69th minute after a mix-up between Bassam Al-Rawi and Ahmad Moein allowed him to pounce on a loose ball inside the box and finish past Mohammed Al-Bakari.

Qatar then looked to have stolen the win with three minutes remaining, when Almoez Ali bundled the ball over the line from close range after the Vietnamese failed to clear their lines.

But, miraculously, Quang Hai fired them level again in the 89th minute, receiving possession on the edge of the box and and cutting onto his left foot before curling a sublime effort in off the post.

With neither side able to net in extra-time, it meant that Vietnam once again had to deal with the dreaded penalty shootout after winning last Saturday’s quarter-final against Iraq in similar fashion.

And it initially looked as though they were in trouble as their first effort from Quang Hai was saved by Al-Bakari.

Nonetheless, Bui Tien Dung emerged as the hero in the shootout for Vietnam as he kept out efforts from both Moein and Sultan Al-Brake, paving the way for Vu Van Thanh to fire home the winning spot-kick and send Vietnam into Sunday’s final.

QATAR: Mohammed Al-Bakari, Tameem Al-Muhaza, Bassam Al-Rawi, Tarek Salman, Sultan Al-Brake, Salem Al-Hajri (Abdullah Al-Ahrak 60’), Assim Madibo, Hashim Ali (Meshaal Al-Shammeri 106’), Ahmad Moein, Akram Afif, Almoez Ali.

VIETNAM: Bui Tien Dung, Pham Xuan Manh, Do Duy Manh (Nguyen Phong Hong Duy 61’), Tran Dinh Trong, Bui Tien Dung, Vu Van Thanh, Pham Duc Huy (Nguyen Thanh Chung 120+1’), Luong Xuan Truong, Nguyen Quang Hai, Phan Van Duc, Nguyen Cong Phuong (Ha Duc Chinh 46’).