| HO CHI MINH CITY (August 7, 2007) – Vietnam will take on Malaysia in the final of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-20 Championship which is to be played at the Thanh Long Sports Complex tomorrow.
Vietnam proved they are formidable adversaries at home when they beat defending champion Myanmar 3-1 in the first semi-final today.
After a listless opening spell in which both teams appeared jaded, the Vietnamese were the first to shrug off the lethargy by scoring through a header from Nguyen Dinh Hiep who made contact with a cross sent in from the right by Chu Ngoc Anh in the 30th minute.
The goal, greeted with the usual delirium from the 1,000 home crowd, was a tonic to the home side as they raised their work rate for Dinh Hiep to narrowly miss the intended target with another header.
Vietnamese pressure paid off in the 41st minute when Hoang van Binh was tripped by a Myanmar defender in the box which Nguyen Hong Viet made no mistake with the penalty.
The goal brought an immediate response from the Myanmarese and predictably, it came from a set piece.
They forced a free kick near the right hand corner of the Vietnamese penalty box for Min Ko Ko to float in a cross which Naing Lin Tun headed home three minutes to the break.
After the interval, Vietnam proved keener at pressing the attack and held the upper hand despite some lapses in defence that enabled Myanmar to sporadically threaten them.
In the 82nd minute a punt up field found Nguyen Hong Viet chasing for possession before releasing team mate Pham Van Guy to receive and score from the pass.
The goal left a tired Myanmar side without the energy for a response, ceding the match to the opponents who had more stamina and support.
ON THE OTHER HAND, Malaysia scored an upset 2-1 win over favourites Thailand to set a date with Vietnam in the final of the tournament on Thursday.
Two goals within two minutes – in the 78th minutes by Ahmad Fakri Saarani and in the 80th minutes from Yusaini Che Saad – allowed Malaysia win the tie.
An essentially dour contest looked likely to be decided by a plucky Thai goal but it was the Malaysians who conjured two quick goals that were executed with the precision that had eluded them all of the earlier part of the match.
The goals came from uncharacteristic porousness down the right side of the Thai defence when in fact it was the left side that seemed more likely to leak.
The Thai forwards throughout had probed a resolute Malaysian defence in which goalkeeper Mohd Salawi Jasad saved several shots diving to his left and tipping scouring long range attempts over the bar.
Improbably the Thais got their only goal a minute after the Malaysians went two up.
Wanthon In-Uten dribbled his way down the right flank before sending a pass for Rodrak Namueangrak to score with a sure fire drive.
It was poor reward for the edge they held throughout the match.
Malaysian head coach K. Rajagobal admitted that his team were the underdogs and that he had expected a defeat by a narrow margin.
“All I was expecting was a credible performance by our boys but they took their chances when they had them and that proved sufficient for victory. You need that kind of luck in football,” he said.