|We did it: Viet Nam defender Nguyen Thanh Hien scores the only goal in a match against Laos yesterday in Singapore. — VNS Photo Quang Thang
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam completed their hattrick of wins by beating Laos 1-0 in the third round match of Group B at the Southeast Asian Games in Bishan Stadium yesterday.
Defender Nguyen Thanh Hien scored the only goal at the 65th minute, after the Vietnamese side, one of the title favourites this year, wasted many chances.
National idol Nguyen Cong Phuong made a solo to break into the penalty area of Laos.
His shoot was blocked out and the ball came to Hien who was put in the field unwillingly at the 23rd minute to replace Nguyen Huu Dung who suffered an injury.
Hien managed the ball and made a straight shoot to the right corner of goalkeeper Keodouang-deth Vathana who stretched all of his size but failed to save the net.
After three rounds of matches, Viet Nam top Group B with nine points, followed by Thailand, who also had their third win in an earlier match yesterday.
Thai captain Sarach Yooyen showed how it's done when he fired the only goal of the game to realistically edge Malaysia out of the SEA Games.
With the Thai strikers firing blanks, it was up to Sarach to show how it's done when he unleashed a screamer beyond the reach of Malaysian keeper Mohd Farhan Abu Bakar 10 minutes to the end.
"We were actually quite surprised with the goal," Thai coach Choketawee Promrut was quoted as saying on aseanfootball.org. "But the important thing is the three points today."
Both teams were struggling under the extreme afternoon heat as they were passing the ball around, probing for spaces to push forward. Thailand were the early aggressors as the Malaysians seemed content to defend, with coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee preferring to play without a striker.
As Matthew Davies was tasked with marking out Thai striker Chananan Pombupha, chances were too few in the opening half, although the Malaysians relied on some quick counters through Gary Steven Robbat.
The best chance came late in the 28th minute, but despite being unmarked, Thitiphan Puang-jan just couldn't find his mark – twice.
The wily Chanathip Songkrasin finally came alive in the second half as he weaved in and through the Malaysian defence at will, but still to no avail as the strike force just couldn't seem to find the scoring touch past the athleticism of keeper Mohd Farhan.
Malaysia had a great chance in the 59th minute to score, but Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim's curling shot was parried by Thai custodian Chanin Sae-Ear.
Still, Thailand pushed forward, from the left and the right, as the Malaysian defence scrambled to prevent a breach.
Just when Thailand seemed certain they could only salvage a point, came the rifling shot from Sarach to give Thailand and their fans the relief they thoroughly deserved.
"We struggled against Viet Nam, and today, we also struggled against Thailand," quipped Kim Swee.
"Realistically, it is all down to Thailand, Viet Nam, and Malaysia as to who will make it to the semi-finals. And since we have lost to these two teams, the answer is obvious."
Defending champions Thailand will face Brunei tomorrow, while Viet Nam will play East Timor on Sunday and Malaysia will meet Brunei one day later.
In Group A action yesterday, Myanmar defeated host Singapore 2-1. — VNS