|Home favourite: Viet Nam U23's captain Nguyen Van Quyet (left) tries to break away from the J-League's Kashima Antlers during their friendly match in Ha Noi yesterday. The match ended 2-2. — VNS Photo Quang Thang
HA NOI (VNS)— Viet Nam's under-23 team shared the spoils with Japan's Kashima Antlers yesterday in the capital's My Dinh Stadium, with their friendly match ending 2-2.
In the build-up, the game had been billed as an important step in Viet Nam's preparations for approaching international tournaments, with many players being given a chance to impress new coach Hoang Van Phuc and stake their claim to a berth in the main national team.
However, it was the visitors who started the brighter, and the J-League giants dominated possession with their height and physical approach. They had the game's first chance to open the scoring when Yasushi Endoh headed narrowly wide.
Vietnamese forward Mac Hong Quan responded minutes later, but his fierce shot flew over the crossbar.
Backed by the strong support of thousands of fans, the Vietnamese players slowly began to grow in confidence and get a foothold on proceedings. They started working possession down the channels and exploiting their width, but they still could not trouble the opposition's goalkeeper Akihiro Sato.
Kashima Antlers also refused to be intimidated, and they were only denied the lead by some heroic goalkeeping from keeper Tran Buu Ngoc.
Five minutes after the break Vu Minh Tuan opened the scoring with a sensational free kick from 25m, sending the home crowd wild.
However their joy was short-lived, with Yuya Osaka grabbing an equaliser just one minute later thanks to a dazzling long run past Viet Nam's stranded and static defence.
Five minutes later they made it 2-1 for when Osaka provided a perfect pass to Atsutaka Nakamura, who found himself with an abundance of time and space in which to beat Ngoc.
Phuc tried to add more of an attacking threat by bringing on strikers Ha Minh Tuan and Tran Phi Son. It proved an influential switch, with Son instantly causing problems for the Kashima Antlers's defence.
The equaliser, when it came, was all too easy for the hosts. In the 79th minute, Sato and his defence suffered a major breakdown in communication and the ball was passed straight into the path of substitute Hoang Danh Ngoc, who gratefully accepted the gift and passed the ball into the empty net.
The Vietnamese players pushed for the winner, with Son coming close several times, but the visitors held out and the match ended in a well-fought draw. — VNS