Vietnam opened their AFC Asian Cup campaign with a thrilling 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates as second half goals from Huynh Quang Thanh and Le Cong Vinh ensured a surprise triumph over the Gulf Cup champions on Sunday.
The UAE had the better of the scoring opportunities in the first half with lively strike duo Faisal Khalil and Ismail Matar posing a constant threat to the co-hosts.
But after the UAE failed to take their chances, Alfred Riedl’s side took the lead just after the hour mark through Quang Thanh before 21-year-old Cong Vinh wrapped up the win to blow Group B, which also contains defending champions Japan and Qatar, wide open.
The UAE threatened in the closing stages, but failed to really trouble home goalkeeper Hong Son Duong as Vietnam claimed a historic victory.
The game began at a frantic pace in an electric atmosphere created by a near sell-out crowd at the My Dinh National Stadium, but neither side created a real opening with Khalil’s early shot, which was blocked on the edge of the area, the only real threat inside the opening 15 minutes.
Vietnam came within inches of opening the scoring with 16 minutes on the watch as Quang Thanh’s teasing free-kick from the right was flicked the wrong side of the upright by Dong Thap striker Phan Thanh Binh, while at the other end Matar curled a free-kick from the edge of the area just wide of the post.
Song Lam Nghe An custodian Son Duong kept the scores level after 30 minutes with a full length diving save after Khalil had broke into the area and looked to find the bottom corner with a low shot.
The home side came out of the blocks firing at the start of the second half and it took a diving save from UAE goalkeeper Majed Naser to deny Nguyen Vu Phong’s stinging low shot from the edge of the area before the custodian quickly regained his feat to comfortably save Binh Phan’s follow-up shot.
A flying Matar was felled on the edge of the area before the hour mark and after penalty appeals were waved away, the Al Wahda striker chipped the resulting free-kick over the bar.
Vietnam delighted the passionate home crowd four minutes after the hour mark as Quang Thanh pounced on Nguyen Minh Phuong’s chipped pass into the area and gave a helpless Naser no chance from close range.
The home side almost doubled the lead a minute later as Naser did well to parry Thanh Binh’s powerful close range strike and Vu Phuong scooped the rebound over the bar.
The crucial second goal came with 17 minutes remaining as Cong Vinh beat the UAE offside trap to lob Vu Phong’s lofted pass over an advancing Naser from the edge of the area.