|SILENCING CRITICS: Nguyễn Tiến Linh (right) celebrates one of his two goals against Cambodia. — Photo VFF|
Anh Đức & Peter Cowan
HÀ NỘI — A 4-0 win over Cambodia on December 19 evening took Việt Nam through to the semi-finals of the AFF Cup, but the margin of victory wasn't enough to top Group B, meaning they will face Thailand in the next round.
The Golden Star Warriors needed just a draw to qualify, but coach Park Hang-seo's strong attacking line-up with Phan Văn Đức, Nguyễn Công Phượng, Nguyễn Quang Hải and Nguyễn Tiến Linh showed the Korean was determined to take all three points in a bid to top Group B.
Việt Nam yet again dominated from the get-go and scored just four minutes into the contest. Tiến Linh was put clean through on goal via a clever ball from Quang Hải and scored his first goal of the tournament.
Rather than keeping possession and dictating the game, Việt Nam lured Cambodia forward, encouraging coach Keisuke Honda's men to attack. This allow Việt Nam to put the inexperienced Cambodian defenders under pressuring counter-attacks.
One such counter-attack led to Tiến Linh's second goal in the 32nd minute, with a decent strike from outside the box, silencing his critics after misfiring in the 0-0 draw against Indonesia on last Wednesday.
With Malaysia trailing 2-1 to Indonesia at half-time, Việt Nam needed more goals to take back their place at the top of the group.
They pushed Cambodia into their own half and scored two goals in quick succession. A great cross from Tấn Tài met Bùi Tiến Dũng who headed in for the third goal in the 55th minute, and Quang Hải scored the fourth only one minute later with a brilliant strike.
Việt Nam did not take their foot off the gas and pushed for more against the Cambodian side coached by Japanese legend Keisuke Honda, but were unable to convert their chances and the match ended 4-0.
Elsewhere in Kallang National Stadium, Indonesia scored two more goals and finished with a 4-1 win over Malaysia.
This result cemented their place at the top of Group B, with an equal number of points and goal difference as Việt Nam, but Indonesia scored four more goals.
Việt Nam will face rivals Thailand in the two-legged semi-finals on December 23 and Boxing Day. — VNS