|All tied up: Le Cong Vinh (right) scores a goal for Viet Nam during a 1-1 draw against Iraq yesterday in Ha Noi. — VNS Photo Tuan Tu
HA NOI (VNS) — Toshyia Miura rightly said that he planned to lock Iraq's players in their Group F match of the World Cup qualification round, Asia zone, yesterday, in Ha Noi.
Viet Nam, which were considered the underdogs against their Middle East rivals, were in the lead most of the time until the dying moments of the match, when they let a goal in to end the match 1-1 at the national My Dinh Stadium.
Le Cong Vinh scored the opening goal in the 25th minute while Younus Madmud had Iraq's leveller in the additional time.
Viet Nam as hosts showed no fear against Iraq who were taller, bigger, but not better as they had been described in the newspapers in the recent days.
Midfielder Nguyen Trong Hoang brought the ball into Iraq's area and created a smart pass to Vinh, who left two Iraqi defenders behind before sending the ball into goalkeeper Noor Sabri Abbas Al Bairawi's net.
The unexpected goal pushed Viet Nam's spirits sky high and they rallied with a number of attempts that made Iraq work very hard in the first half.
Just about five minutes after the goal, Vinh gave an unbelievable chance to Mac Hong Quan and waited to see the second goal for Viet Nam.
Quan was really calm and confident as he aimed at Al Bairawi's net but for some unknown reasons his kick went over the bar.
The television screen showed the regret of thousands of local fans in the stands as well as coach Miura who was tearing his hair in frustration after his favourite striker's chance was wasted.
However, the Japanese still seemed satisfied with what his players had achieved in the first 30 minutes, giving a huge cheer to encourage the whole squad.
The defenders shut down the field all the way up to goalie Tran Nguyen Manh's area. They worked so well that the Iraqi players, including their captain Younus Mahmood Khalaf could not bring their skills into play.
Iraq made three changes with a view to remedy the situation. They tried to increase the tempo of the match and took advantage of their better physique in the second half.
Miura also changed his plans with three new players.
His tactic proved right as the hosts began working fluently against Iraq's better performers.
Manh showed his great skills and saved his net for the ‘nth' time under the continuous attacks of the Middle East representatives.
He was successful in all situations – free kicks, headers, close- and long-distance shoot-outs by Ahmed Yaseen Gheni, Ali Hisny Faisal and Mohamad Abdul-raheem Karrar.
In the 86th minute, Vinh nearly made it 2-0 in a one-two situation with the Iraqi keeper. The national forward tried to cheat Al Bairawi with a shot to the right corner but the ball did not run strongly enough to cross the line.
However, even as the entire stadium stood up in anticipation of a win, Iraqis found the leveller.
Defender Nguyen Thanh Hien made a mistake when his hand touched the ball in the box and a penalty was awarded to the visitors.
Manh, who could not be beaten earlier, failed this time when he could not stop a straight kick by Khalaf.
Iraq equalised on the stroke of full-time.
In the post-match briefing, Miura said his players worked hard through the game but unfortunately they were drawn in the last seconds.
This was a match that Viet Nam made more mistakes than their rivals who were not as good as they should have been. But he predicted their playing style and muted their game throughout.
Coach Yahya Alwan Manhal of Iraq said at least seven players from his side did not play at their peak yesterday. They were not confident enough and wasted their opportunities. They were better in the second half, but the Vietnamese goal keeper was excellent.
Manhal said that if Viet Nam could maintain their performance they would definitely beat Thailand in the next match.
After the third round matches, Viet Nam are in third position with four points. Thailand are on top with seven points, followed by Iraq on five.
Viet Nam will next play arch-rival Thailand on October 13, also at My Dinh. — VNS