|Close match: Malaysia's Safee Sali (top, right) heads the ball against Viet Nam during their AFF Suzuki Cup 2014 first leg semi-final football match at the Shah Alam Stadium in Shah Alam on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur yesterday. — AFP/VNA Photo
HA NOI (VNS) — Coach Toshyia Miura said he came to Malaysia to win. Those words came true as Viet Nam scored a 2-1 victory over the hosts yesterday during the ASEAN Football Federation-Suzuki Cup's semi-final first leg match in Selangor.
Striker Safiq Rahim of Malaysia opened the score just 13 minutes into the match.
Safee converted a penalty to the opener with a light shoot that came to the right corner while goalie Tran Nguyen Manh jumped to the left, his second successful penalty this Cup. But Viet Nam immediately matched them.
Vo Huy Toan proved his ability with a leveler at the 32nd minute. The midfielder, who could only get in the field after first choice Vu Minh Tuan was sidelined, ran in to catch the running ball in the box and sent it to the net.
Miura changed his tactic in the second half with a surprise change, calling on striker Mac Hong Quan to replace on-song Pham Thanh Luong. Luong was one of the best players on the Vietnamese side, connecting all lines of the visiting squad.
The super-substitute made a major difference. Quan ran the ball from the centre and made a smart pass to midfielder Nguyen Van Quyet, who managed it well before finding the far corner of the net.
Quan, who often started from the bench, scored a goal to make it 1-1 in Viet Nam's 3-1 win over Malaysia in a friendly match last month also at My Dinh Stadium.
Malaysia, who used their strong physique to creat many attacks. However, their poor skills failed to beat the thick and effective defence, which coach Dollah Salleh looked down on when talking with media ahead of the game.
The second leg of the semi-finals will take place at My Dinh on December 11.
In another semi-final match, the Philippines were unable to break tournament favourites Thailand in Manila on Saturday but a buoyant display left them confident of getting the required result in Bangkok and reaching a first final.
The ‘Azkals' had arguably the best of the play in the first leg in Manila, with the Thais forced to go on the defensive for the final 22 minutes after striker Adisak Kraisorn was sent off for an off-the-ball clash.
Once considered the whipping boys of the biennial Southeast Asian championships, the Philippines are competing in their third consecutive semi-final and forward Phil Younghusband believed his side were there on merit.
"I think we showed today we can compete with teams like Thailand," he told reporters. "It's a big advantage we did not concede a goal today." The Philippines were the first team to book a semi-final spot after opening with a 4-1 win over Laos and then a 4-0 success over Indonesia.
They lost 3-1 to Viet Nam in a tired final group stage display, setting up a tougher semi-final against the Thai three-time champions, who swept Group B with wins over Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia.
The Thais, though, will be without suspended Adisak for the second leg, with first choice forward Kirati Keawsombut struggling to be fit after being taken off on a stretcher in the first half in Manila with a suspected hamstring injury.
A scoring draw on Wednesday will be enough to send the Philippines through on away goals and coach Tom Dooley predicted the early stages of the second leg would be key.
"If we can hold them for the first 15 to 20 minutes I think we have a good chance," the German-American coach said. "They will try and do everything to beat us at home and we just have to be ready. I have seen the sparks in our side for the last two days." — VNS/REUTERS