Southeast Asian defending champions Singapore were lucky to secure a scoreless draw in their first-leg semifinal of the regional cup with hosts Vietnam in Ha Noi Wednesday.
|Singapore coach Avramovic speaks after Wednesday’s game in Ha Noi (Photo: SGGP)|
Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic said after the match at the My Dinh National Stadium, “We were lucky in the game. The Vietnamese players played at a very fast tempo although on hindsight, I believe that our players just did not play.”
The 40,000-seat stadium was full of spectators and they saw Vietnam pushing hard from the very first whistle.
Just three minutes into the game, Le Tan Tai headed from a cross by Doan Viet Cuong but did not succeed. Some minutes later, striker Nguyen Viet Thang’s shot went off the target.
The all-red hosts played short and low balls at a fast tempo, coming closer to goalkeeper Lionel Lewis from both sides and also the midfield. In the 23rd minute, Nguyen Vu Phong’s freekick was followed by a header from captain Phan Van Tai Em but goalie Lewis denied with a brilliant save.
The crowd must have regretted for Viet Thang’s low shot that Lewis could do nothing but the ball hit the goal post, and another low finish that was very close.
The defending champions just played defensively in the first half.
|Vietnam striker Phan Thanh Binh (in red) and a Singapore defender chase for the ball during their Wednesday match in Ha Noi (Photo: SGGP)|
The red players started the second half very much on the same tempo they did in the first half.
Singapore could push the hosts back for a while with moves by substitute striker Noh Alam Shah. In the 66th minute, his header inside the smaller box missed the target.
In the 75th minute, the ball rolled into the Vietnam net from a header by defender Le Phuoc Tu but the referee denied a goal because Alam Shah was offside before the header.
The draw also means an advantage for Singapore, who will play Vietnam again in the second leg at home on Dec. 21. The winners will go through to the final to play either Indonesia or Thailand.
On Tuesday, Thailand beat Indonesia 1-0 in Jakarta in the first leg of the other semifinal. The two teams will meet again in Bangkok on Dec. 20.