Group D: Vietnam 1-0 Australia
Kunshan: Nguyen Quang Hai’s second half winner earned Vietnam a 1-0 win over Australia in the AFC U23 Championship 2018 on Sunday and throw the battle for the quarter-final places in Group D wide open.
Australia had no answer to Quang Hai’s deflected long-range strike and the result leaves both teams level on three points after two rounds of matches, with the Olyroos defeating Syria and Vietnam losing to Korea Republic in their respective openers.
Victory over Syria in their final group game on Wednesday would be enough to take the Vietnamese into the last eight while Australia face a significant challenge to stay alive in the tournament when they take on the Koreans.
Ante Milicic made eight changes from the team that handed Syria a 3-1 defeat, with George Blackwood, who scored twice for the Olyroos, rested and Bruce Kamau, who claimed his side’s other goal, unavailable due to injury.
The fluidity the Australians displayed in that win was absent in the first half against the Vietnamese with the Southeast Asian side wresting the initiative from Milicic’s team as the half wore on.
Australia’s Ajdin Hrustic twice tried his luck from long range, seeing his free-kick with 12 minutes on the clock saved by Bui Tien Dung before firing just wide 10 minutes later.
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But it was Vietnam who fashioned the better chances before the interval. Alex Gersbach’s error saw him gift possession to Nguyen Cong Phuong and only the intervention of Ruon Tongyik denied the 22-year-old from scoring the opener.
Cong Phuong caused more concern in the Australian defence soon after and, with six minutes left in the half, Quang Hai’s shot across goal from 25 yards out was saved at full stretch by Paul Izzo.
The Vietnamese were emboldened by their first half performance, but it was the Olyroos who went closest to the opener six minutes after the restart. Gersbach’s inviting low cross from the left found Joseph Champness at the far post and forced Tien Dung to push the ball out for a corner.
With 18 minutes remaining, however, Vietnam claimed what turned out to be the winner. Australia’s inability to properly clear a corner was punished when Quang Hai struck from distance, with a deflection taking the shot past Izzo.
Australia pushed for the equaliser, with substitute Blackwood hitting the crossbar with a late header, but Vietnam held on to record a famous win.
Park Hang-seo: Vietnam head coach
"I want to dedicate this victory to the Vietnamese people. I promised we would do something special but this is just the start. I want to thank the players and my staff, they did everything I asked them to do. We have one match left and from tomorrow we have to concentrate on that game.
We always believed we can win the game. We don't know in advance what the result will be, but we prepare to win. Every team has good points and of course today, we were lucky."
Ante Milicic: Australia head coach
"First, I’d like to congratulate Vietnam on a fantastic victory. For them to win a game at a tournament like this is good for their confidence. We knew what to expect in terms of the way that they set up and approach the game with their 5-4-1 formation. It was similar to the way they set up against Korea Republic and we struggled at times to create some clear cut chances. We were vulnerable on the break and we could have dealt better with those situations.
Towards the end we created three or four good chances but the ball wouldn’t go in, so we go home disappointed but we’ll assess it and focus on the next game, which will be a difficult one against Korea (Republic)."