|Defender Đỗ Duy Mạnh (number 2) rises to head the ball clear in the second half of Viet Nam's 1-0 defeat to Japan. VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng|
HÀ NỘI - Việt Nam fell to a 1-0 defeat to visitors Japan at Mỹ Đình Stadium on last night after a battling performance that wasn't enough to secure a positive result.
Park Hang-seo's men performed admirably against their heavily-favoured opponents, but were unable to stave off a fifth defeat from five matches in the third round of World Cup qualifying.
The result leaves the Vietnamese side rooted to the bottom of Group B and miles away from what was always an unlikely trip to the Qatar 2022 finals.
The Vietnamese faced a daunting task, even with the support of a lively home crowd behind them, as the Japanese side was filled with stars with bags of experience at the highest level of football in Europe.
The Japanese star power told early on, as Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino strode forward on the break and slide a delightful ball across the box for Genk winger Junya Ito, who easily finished past goalkeeper Bùi Tấn Trường.
Việt Nam held their own for much of the rest of the half, though Japan dominated possession and always looked dangerous.
The home side's best effort in the first half came from Nguyễn Công Phượng's audacious attempt to score directly from a corner, but Shūichi Gonda saved easily, and Japan were soon on the counter.
The Samurai Blue put the ball in the back of the net moments later, Ito firing home a powerful finish, seemingly ending all hopes of a Việt Nam comeback.
However, the goal went to a VAR review, and after a lengthy look at the replays, referee Mohamed Abdullah Hassan determined that Atomu Tanaka was in an offside position and interfering with play when Ito's shot flew past him.
The crowd erupted into celebration when the decision was announced, and the two sides went into the break with Japan holding the slenderest of leads.
However, the Vietnamese weren't able to turn the moment into a shift of momentum and spent the majority of the second half doggedly defending.
Japan always looked a threat, but failed to deliver the cutting edge to see the game off.
Việt Nam's best chance came in the 89th minute when substitute Lương Xuân Trường (who replaced fellow sub Phan Văn Đức) whipped a free-kick into the box, causing mayhem in the Japanese area. However the ball was eventually cleared, and the half-chance went begging.
Coach Park's men will next face Saudi Arabia at home on Tuesday night. VNS
Here are a selection of action shots taken by Viet Nam News Photographer Tung Doan