|Bùi Duy Thường (No 88) celebrates his winner in the 1-0 victory of Viettel over Phnom Penh Crown during the AFC Cup's Group I match. Photo of Viettel FC
HÀ NỘI — Viettel FC cemented top spot in Group I of the AFC Cup after a solid 1-0 win over Phnom Penh Crown on Monday at the Thống Nhất Stadium in HCM City.
The home side dominated from start to finish, creating chances at will but failing to convert them into more goals.
The V.League 1 team went ahead in the 9th minute as national midfielder Nguyễn Hoàng Đức set up Bùi Duy Thường, who found the back of the net from over 20m out.
Geovane Magno and Trần Danh Trung wasted opportunities to double the score as their attempts were either denied by goalkeeper Kung Chanvuthy or went wide.
Phnom Penh Crown’s most dangerous sight of goal came midway through the second half when Colombian playmaker Andres Nieto set up the onrushing Koeut Pich on the left flank, and with just the goalkeeper to beat, Koeut aimed for the bottom corner, but Quàng Thế Tài smothered his shot before the Vietnamese goalkeeper recovered to save the rebound.
"I am happy with the goal. And it is much more wonderful as our team won," said defender Thường who dedicated his first international winner to his supporters and fiancée, who will be his wife in the next couple of weeks.
Speaking to reporters at the post-match briefing, Assistant Coach Đặng Thanh Phương said playing without head coach Bae Jin-won was a big challenge for his team. But his players overcame the difficulty to get the win.
Coach Bae and the team's doctor were in quarantine because of their positive COVID tests just hours before the game.
"We were united to play and win. We wanted to score more goals, but things did not go our way. Anyway, we deserve this win," Phương said.
"Coach Bae is in good condition, but he is being isolated until getting negative results. He prepared everything before the match, and things happened nearly the same as he had planned. This game result is good for both coach and the team."
Coach Oleg Starynskyi of Phnom Penh Crown was unhappy about the second loss but confirmed Viettel were a high-quality team.
He said Viettel played well with counter-attacks and his defenders were not fast enough to resist the speedy Vietnamese attacks, especially in and around the penalty area.
Striker Magno created many difficulties for Phnom Penh while the Viettel defenders, especially skipper Nguyễn Đức Chiến, worked effectively to stop all the visitors' attacks.
In the later match of the group, Singapore’s Hougang United came from behind to win their second game in a row, beating Laos’ Young Elephants 3-1.
A second win on the trot puts Viettel in the driving seat ahead of the final matchday showdown against second-placed Hougang United on Thursday.
Meanwhile, it will be an early exit for both Phnom Penh Crown and Young Elephants. They will look to bow out on a positive note in their final game. VNS