Vietnamese midfielder Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng (left) battles with Thailand's Theerathon Bunmathan. — VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam and Thailand played out another goalless draw in Hà Nội tonight, leaving Việt Nam still unbeaten and atop Group G of the World Cup qualifiers.
The match at Mỹ Đình Stadium was a repeat of the reverse fixture in September, when again the two sides couldn’t be separated, though in truth the home side will be happier with the point after withstanding a lot of second-half pressure.
Việt Nam’s coach Park Hang-seo named the same team that defeated the United Arab Emirates on November 14, while Akira Nishino’s Thailand made several changes from the team that lost to Malaysia, with star left-back Theerathon Bunmathan back in the side after missing out through suspension.
The home side almost enjoyed a dream start as Nguyễn Tiến Linh got behind the defence in the opening seconds, but he was unable to latch onto a long ball before Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan could claim it.
As the half wore on Thailand’s class began to show and they started knocking the ball about with confidence, which eventually led to the first real chance.
From a corner, left-back Đoàn Văn Hậu was adjudged to have fouled Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul while the two challenged for the ball in the box and Omani referee Ahmed Al-Kaf pointed to the spot.
Set-piece specialist Bunmathan stepped up, but Vietnamese goalkeeper Đặng Văn Lâm was determined not to be beaten and saved with his trailing leg after diving to his left.
A mere four minutes later, Việt Nam had the ball in Thailand’s net thanks to a header from Bùi Tiến Dũng, but it was disallowed for a Hậu foul on Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan.
The second half began with Việt Nam on top in the early exchanges and they had a second goal disallowed after Hậu flicked it on to Linh from an offside position.
The away side dominated the rest of the half and put the Vietnamese goal under serious pressure, and came closest to a breakthrough in the 81st minute.
Dazzling dribbling from Supachok Sarachat got him through the defence for a shot which Lâm parried out to Narubadin Weerawatnodom, who had the goal at his mercy. Step up Hậu, who heroically dove head first to block the Thai player’s shot.
Việt Nam weathered the rest of the storm and made it to full-time level, and while all three points was certainly the goal coming in, the draw means Park Hang-seo’s men are still unbeaten in the qualifiers and lead Group G on 11 points, two ahead of Malaysia in second place.
The senior team now have an extended break until their next fixture in March 2020 away to Malaysia, giving them four whole months to enjoy the sight of Việt Nam on top of the table and still on track for Qatar 2022. — VNS