U23 Vietnam stun U23 China to win VFF Cup early

U-23 Vietnam shocked U-23 China with a 3-1 thrilling victory Saturday in the Vietnam Football Federation Cup and reaped the title, despite the results of the last matchday on Nov. 9.

The home side’s Saturday win followed their 1-0 victory over U-23 Singapore two days earlier at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi. With six points, the young Vietnamese won the friendship tournament regardless of the results of the U-23 China vs. U-23 Singapore and U-23 Vietnam vs. U-23 Thailand on Monday.

The Thais got two points after drawing 2-2 with China on Thursday and 1-1 with the Singapore team Saturday. Both Singapore and China got one point each.

This means if Thailand beat Vietnam in the last game of the round-robin competition, they will get five points, still behind the hosts.

The home side’s Saturday match against the Chinese team at the My Dinh Stadium was a thrilling game that took the crowd’s breath away. Both sides started the game carefully but left winger Mai Tien Thanh boomed the stadium with a low volley inside the penalty area in the 8th minute. Vietnam took the lead.

U-23 Vietnam captain Pham Thanh Luong (L) is challenged by U-23 China’s Ren Hang during a Vietnam Football Federation Cup match in Hanoi Nov. 7. Vietnam won 3-1 to take the trophy. (Photo: SGGP)

The Chinese side strongly bounced back but their continual attacks could not break Vietnam’s well-organised defending. Goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong played well, denying many efforts from the other side.

The home side played carefully with a 4-5-1 formation and responded with counter-attacks. Mai Tien Thanh got a chance similar to the one he fired earlier but his volley was over the crossbar. Before his chance, striker Phan Thanh Binh made a shot wide of the right post.

After the break, U-23 China tried to flood the other side of the field. However, Vietnam suddenly doubled the gap when captain Pham Thanh Luong fired from a rapid counter-attach in the 59th minute.

From that moment, Vietnam were under higher pressure. China’s attacks continually came one after one, and goalie Truong had to work very hard. However, a super shot from a free kick on the edge of the penalty box by Chinese captain Zhang Linpeng in the 70th minute gave the keeper no chance.

More inspired by the goal, the Chinese side even intensified more pressure. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese managed to consolidate defending and goalie Truong stopped many high balls towards him.

Vietnam midfielder Nguyen Trong Hoang (L) celebrates his goal in the U-23 Vietnam vs. U-23 China game. (Photo: SGGP)

China continued to play very high and when the injury time came, Vietnamese midfielder Nguyen Trong Hoang, from a rapid counter-attack, performed a one-man show and finalized the score at 3-1.

U-23 China coach Li Xiaoquang said after the match, “The reason we lost today is we conceded an early goal. I watched Vietnam play Singapore in the opening day but the home side played much better today.”

U-23 Vietnam coach Henrique Calisto said, “We played very well today but we still have a lot of things to do for the 25th Southeast Asian Games [this December]. Olympic Vietnam won the VFF Cup today but it’s not time to mention a good result in the SEA Games. Olympic Thailand have very good techniques and our game with Thailand is certainly much harder.”

U-23 Thailand were held 1-1 by U-23 Singapore in another game Saturday. Sompong Soleb fired for the Thais with a header just before the break.

Just five minutes into the second half, Thai goalkeeper Kawin had his own goal while clumsily stopping a cross from the Singapore side. After the equalizer, the Thais fully pressed the other side but failed to change the result.

The final matchday is on Nov. 9. Then Vietnam will pocket US$25,000 for the title, while the first and second runners- up will each win US$10,000 and US$5,000.

The VFF Cup is held to help Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam improve fitness for December’s Southeast Asian Games.

By Minh Tuong

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