|Ladies day: Vietnamese female players cheer after they shot a second goal against Thailand to raise the score to 2-1 during their match at the Asian Games yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Huu Quy
HCM CITY (VNS) —Vietnamese football fans had something to celebrate and something to mourn as the national men's and women's teams competed at the 17th Asian Games yesterday afternoon.
The national women's team put in a good performance to beat archrivals Thailand 2-1 in their quarter-final match, booking a place in the semifinals for the first time after five attempts at the premier regional sporting event.
Striker Romyen Nisa opened the score for Thailand six minutes into the second half, but just two minutes later, midfielder Nguyen Thi Lieu found the equaliser.
A 67th minute goal by midfielder Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung sealed the match for Viet Nam, sending the team to through to the last four at the Asian Games for the first time since they began competing in 1998. They will face defending champions Japan in the semi-finals.
South Korea and North Korea will fight the other semifinal battle for a place in the final, the latter having beaten China 1-0 in their quarter-final match.
Meanwhile, Viet Nam's U23 football team was not able to improve its record by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time.
They bowed out of the Asian Games competition following a 3-1 loss to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a second-round match yesterday.
Captain and striker Saeed Salem Saleh Alkatheeri opened the scoring for the UAE in the 21st minute and defender Saif Khalfan Saeed Almeqbaali doubled the advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Midfielder Nguyen Huy Hung reduced the deficit with three minutes to go in the match but Bandar Mohammed Saeed Al Ahbahi sealed it in emphatic fashion for the UAE in the third minute of a five-minute addition.
The Vietnamese side can only blame themselves for the loss, having had everything on their side to beat the Emirates, disappointing thousands of fans at the stadium and millions watching on TV at home.
The two teams walked out on the pitch full of confidence in their ability to find a place in the last eight.
Just 35 seconds after the whistle, the UAE tested Vietnamese custodian Tran Buu Ngoc, and an efficient counter-attack saw Nguyen Thanh Hien send a long pass to forward Ngo Hoang Quan, who got past a UAE defender to face the keeper. His shot flew over the bar.
Seven minutes later, Viet Nam had another chance to open the score. Striker Vu Minh Tuan was sent clear inside the penalty area following a long pass and his volley went beyond the reach of goalkeeper Ahmad Mohammad Shambih Albalooshi only to roll inches off the far post.
Hien was guilty of missing another chance in the 11th minute when captain Mac Hong Thinh squared the ball back to him. Hien rushed in to meet the cross with a lot of space and options in front of an opening goal, but he hit the ball high over the bar in embarrassing fashion.
The Vietnamese side were vulnerable at the back every time they attacked and the opponents seemed to notice this. They tried to beef up their defence while sending long balls to the skillful, speedy striker Alkatheeri up front.
In the 21th minute, Alkatheeri acrobatically collected a long ball from the UAE's own half and left defender Que Ngoc Hai in his wake before poking it past Ngoc into the low corner of the net.
Viet Nam still had more possession but the problem for the team, who had beaten Iran 4-1 in the group stage, was that they could not break through the solid UAE defence.
In contrast, the UAE were very sharp on the counter-attack with Alkatheeri and Al Ahbahi coming close to doubling the advantage before half-time.
The UAE had the first goal-scoring opportunity of the second half with a free kick from 18m out being tipped over the crossbar by Ngoc.
Midfielder Tran Phi Son came off the bench to replace Ho Ngoc Thang, but before he could repeat his feat in the last group match against Kyrgyzstan, the UAE scored again, thanks to sloppy defence.
Al Ahbahi burst down unchallenged in the right flank and curled a pass into the goalmouth and unmarked Almeqbaali rose high to head the ball in, with three Vietnamese defenders inside the 6m50 box.
Viet Nam had more possession of the ball, but found it difficult to create goal-scoring chances. The goal from Hung came raised hopes of a comeback among diehard fans with eight minutes to go, including five of added time.
The tired legs of the Vietnamese side, however, could not make any significant inroad and their opponents continue to look dangerous. In the third minute of added time, Al Ahbahi broke the offside trap, went past Ngoc to put the ball into an empty net. — VNS