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Tashkent: A hat-trick from Suphawut Thueanklang secured a dramatic 3-1 win for Thailand over Southeast Asian rivals Vietnam as they leapfrogged their opponents to top Group C at the AFC Futsal Championship on Monday.

In an action-packed opening period at Uzbekistan Stadium, Thailand spurned the best opportunity when top scorer Suphawut missed from the spot before Vietnam goalkeeper Nguyen Van Huy made a string of outstanding saves as the game entered the final 10 minutes scoreless.

But after a period of intense pressure Thailand’s star man Suphawut finally broke the deadlock in the 31st minute before Vu Xuan Du levelled two minutes from time only for Suphawut to snatch two late goals to complete his treble.

“If they didn’t have such a good goalkeeper the match would have been finished much earlier, but the goalkeeper is a big part of the game,” said Thailand coach Victor Hermans.

“I have learnt that you must stay calm and keep trying as when it opens up you eventually score. I think we totally deserved it, but Vietnam have improved a lot.

“Some players in my team wanted to force the situation, but you must never panic. In the end we did have to force it, though, and the goals came.

“He [Suphawut] only trained six times before the tournament. I want to praise all my team, but he is special and could play anywhere in the world.”

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Vietnam had the first chance of the highly-anticipated clash when Duong Anh Tung dinked agonisingly wide before Thai stopper Kanison Phoopun stood firm to deny Ngo Ngoc Son with a strong left arm in a lively opening few minutes.

Bruno Formoso’s Vietnam were again presented with an opportunity midway through the half only for captain Nguyen Bao Quan to fire over after latching on to a long throw up field by Van Huy.

Thailand were awarded a penalty soon after, though, when Vietnam racked up their sixth foul of the game, but after replacing Van Huy in goal, reserve keeper Nguyen Dinh Y Hoa saved from Suphawut before taking his place back on the bench.

Five minutes before the interval Suphawut played in Jirawat Sornwichian, but his volleyed effort was superbly saved by Van Huy from point-blank range.

Van Huy then tipped Suphawut’s effort onto the bar and over before Jirawat also rocketed against the woodwork as the game somehow remained goalless at the break.

And the Vietnam custodian was again at his excellent best to twice deny Jetsada Chudech soon after the restart, and Apiwat Chaemcharoen shot just wide seven minutes in as Thailand cranked up the pressure.

But nine minutes from time Suphawut did open the scoring with his sixth of the campaign when his powerful strike finally beat Van Huy, who injured himself attempting to get down low to block and had to be replaced by Dinh Y Hoa.

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Needing to avoid defeat to top the group, Vietnam pushed forward again and Kanison pulled off a fine save to block Tran Van Vu’s goalbound effort.

And as full-time approached Vietnam levelled when Xuan Du broke down the left and toe-poked into the bottom left corner to spark wild celebrations on the bench.

Thailand and Suphawut were not done, though, and the number nine scored twice in the last minute, first with his right foot from a central position and then with his left from the left side to break Vietnam hearts.

“In the last minute we thought we had got the draw, but Thailand have great players and won it in the end,” said Vietnam coach Formoso.

“We tried our best to top the group, but at the beginning our target was to make it to the quarter-finals and we have done that.

“Goalkeepers make the difference in this game and we needed to change ours. We worked well, but now we will try to improve for the next game.” 

Photo: AFC