|Viettel FC midfielder Nguyễn Hoàng Đức (left) tries to dispossess midfielder Paulo Josué of Kuala Lumpur City during the zonal semi-final of the AFC Cup on Wednesday. Photo the-afc.com
HÀ NỘI — Viettel FC are out of the AFC Cup after losing to Kuala Lumpur City FC in the zonal semi-final, but coach Bae Ji-won said his team deserved a better result.
The two teams could only be separated in sudden death penalties with Kuala Lumpur coming away as 6-5 winners at the Thống Nhất Stadium in HCM City.
Goalkeeper Azri Ghani kept out Bùi Duy Thường’s penalty in the seventh round of penalties to take the Malaysian side into the next phase.
Earlier, Kuala Lumpur’s Irfan Zakaria fired over the bar in the second round while Trần Danh Trung hit the crossbar for Viettel.
The loss was hard on the Vietnamese side, who set the pace throughout a tense encounter, dominating in midfield but rarely finding a way through the well-organised defence of Kuala Lumpur City.
Viettel controlled large portions of the match with a total of 25 shots, five times more than Kuala Lumpur, but the Malaysians were resilient with disciplined defending.
"We fielded the best players who delivered our tactics for the whole match. With my players' performance, the result was most disappointing," coach Bae told reporters at the post-match conference.
"To Viettel, every match is important; we always want the best results in all tournaments. In this match, the result was worth what we did. We deserved to win," he said.
Goalkeeper Trần Nguyên Mạnh couldn't hide his disappointment.
"I believe that we played a good match. My teammates and I tried our best, hoping to take a win. However, we lacked a little luck," he said.
On the visiting side, head coach Bojan Hodak acknowledged Viettel’s strengths but praised Kuala Lumpur for their incredible fighting spirit.
“I said before the game that Viettel are one of the strongest teams in the region, but we blocked them completely, and for 120 minutes they only had one shot on goal,” said Hodak in the post-match press conference.
“We blocked them completely but we didn’t make use of our chances. We had two or three counter-attacks, but their goalkeeper is also good, making an excellent save.
“I’ve said it will be a very tough match, and when it comes down to penalties, there’s a little bit of luck.”
The Croatian coach was happy as his players strongly resisted and overcome consecutive high pressure from the host side.
“I think individually they are better than us, but this team has a fighting spirit and that’s how we won in the Malaysia Cup and entered the AFC Cup.
“KL is a small club, but for us, this is a huge result, so we hope that our dream can continue.”
Man of the match Romel Morales said teamwork was key to his team's success, hailing his teammates for their great efforts.
“It's teamwork,” said Morales. “We are united as a team. We prepared as to how we wanted to play the game and we showed our best. Maybe individually we’re not the best but we’re stronger as a team.
“In the 90 minutes and extra time, we tried to be compact and play together. We fought until the end, and we got to the next round.”
Kuala Lumpur City will face PSM Makassar of Indonesia, who beat Malaysian Kedah Darul Aman 2-1 in the other semi-finals, in the ASEAN Zonal final on August 24. VNS