|Nguyễn Tiến Linh celebrates his opening goal. — Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam took a huge step towards making it to the third and final round of World Cup qualification for the first time in history with a tense 2-1 win over Malaysia on Friday night.
It took a late and controversial penalty for coach Park Hang-seo’s men to triumph, but few Vietnamese fans will care about the manner of the victory, as the three points mean Việt Nam need only a draw with the UAE on Tuesday to advance.
With star midfielder Nguyễn Quang Hải suspended, Việt Nam’s performance at the Al Maktoum Stadium in the UAE was far less accomplished than in the 4-0 win over Indonesia, but coach Park proved once again he can set his team up to grind out a result.
Malaysia started the match faster and enjoyed the majority of possession but were unable to create any clear chances early on.
In contrast, Việt Nam were more effective on their surges into the Malaysian half and enjoyed a lot of joy down the left-hand side, with Đoàn Văn Hậu finding himself in acres of space on several occasions.
Nguyễn Tiến Linh opened the scoring in the 4-0 win over Indonesia on Monday night and he repeated the trick last night in the 26th minute.
Lương Xuân Trường's corner was headed up in the air by Malaysia’s captain Aidil Zafuan, allowing Hậu to head it back across goal for Linh, who nodded home a quintessential poacher’s finish.
The goal seemed to give Malaysia a spark of life and they would have equalised in the 38th minute if it hadn’t been for a superb save from goalkeeper Bùi Tấn Trường.
The Vietnamese defence was split by a deep cross from Malaysia's Matthew Davies which left Syafiq Ahmad with the goal at his mercy, but Trường reacted superbly to tip his header over from point-blank range.
Trường sprung into action again minutes later to deny Safawi Rasid’s direct free-kick and bring Việt Nam into the break with their lead intact.
Malaysia only increased their dominance of the ball in the second half, however Việt Nam should have doubled their lead against the run of play in the 64th minute, but Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng put his shot wide after being played in by Nguyễn Hoàng Đức at the end of a mazy run.
Just five minutes later though, Việt Nam were made to pay for spurning that opportunity.
Hậu clattered into Guilherme de Paula in the box when the two competed for a header and left referee Ryuji Sato no choice but to point to the spot.
The naturalised striker dusted himself off and converted the penalty to equalise.
In a bid to regain control of a game that was slipping away from his side, coach Park shed his normally defensive instincts by bringing on forwards Hà Đức Chinh and Nguyễn Văn Toàn in what turned out to be a masterstroke.
In the 80th minute, Vũ Văn Thanh slid a pass towards Toàn in the penalty area. Before the forward could collect the ball he tumbled to the floor after his heel was seemingly clipped by Malaysia’s Brendan Gan and was awarded a penalty.
Television replays were inconclusive but did suggest some degree of simulation by Toàn, though in the absence of VAR, the penalty stood.
Captain Quế Ngọc Hải, seemingly the coolest man in the stadium, stepped up and thumped the ball home to make the score 2-1.
Việt Nam were able to hold on for the final minutes without allowing Malaysia to create a decent chance to ensure they came away with a famous win in front of the lucky few Vietnamese supporters in the stands.
The win keeps Việt Nam on top of Group G with 17 points, two ahead of the UAE.
The two sides will meet for their final match of the second round of qualification on Tuesday night with Việt Nam knowing a draw would put them through to the next round. — VNS