|Thailand defeated 10-man Viet Nam 1-0 in the opener of the 2018 World Cup second qualification round of Group F yesterday in Bangkok. — Photo vietnamplus
HA NOI (VNS) — Thailand defeated 10-man Viet Nam 1-0 in the opener of the 2018 World Cup second qualification round of Group F yesterday in Bangkok.
The match between two arch-rivals in Southeast Asia lured Thai and Vietnamese fans to the 50,000-seat Rajamangala Stadium.
Viet Nam, despite a remarkable improvement recently under Japanese coach Toshyia Miura, were overshadowed by the host side, led by former national striker Kiatisuk Senamuang.
Thailand were better in both attack and defence and locked Viet Nam's strikers out of the game while launching consecutive attempts.
Kiatisuk squad included players from some of the top clubs in Thailand, but strikers Ekkchai Samra and Teerasil Dangda a number of chances in the first half.
Ekkchai's first threatening opportunity came in the seventh minute but his weak effort from five yards was easily dealt with.
Teerasil, who played for La Liga's Almeria last year, also had chances, but he failed to convert any of them, and Loi and his defenders successfully neutralised Thailand's No 1 forward.
Thailand's domination forced Viet Nam to play on the counter-attack, but strikers Le Cong Vinh and Nguyen Hai Anh saw little of the ball, and were called back to support the defence.
Ten minutes later, Wichaya Dechmitr had a chance to test Viet Nam keeper To Vinh Loi with a close-range shot, but Loi was in the right place.
Loi was named in the starting line-up because teammate Tran Nguyen Manh was ruled out of the game with an injury he sustained just days before the team left for Thailand.
While Miura struggled with injuries to his side, the Thai coach strengthened his forward line and his decision worked effectively.
Adisak Kraison threatened after being introduced, but Loi again denied Thailand an opener.
The turning point came in the 73rd minute when Viet Nam's Nguyen Minh Chau received a second yellow card and was sent off.
His departure left a big hole in the midfield, and substitute Pokklaw Anan finished coolly after a pass from Teerasil in the 81st minute.
The midfielder picked up the ball outside of the Viet Nam penalty area, feinted to hit with his right before unleashing a left foot drive into the far corner.
Viet Nam had their own chances but it was difficult to break through Thai defence.
Hopes are high in Thailand that their young team can top the group – also featuring Indonesia, Iraq and Chinese Taipei – and qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup and the next round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
The second match of the group will be between Indonesia and Chinese Taipei on June 11.
Viext Nam will meet Thailand in their second leg match in October in Ha Noi.
Yesterday's fixture had been brought forward at both side's request as many of the players will feature in the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore next month. — VNS