SINGAPORE – Defending Suzuki Cup champions Vietnam took a massive step toward the tournament’s semi-finals on Sunday (Dec 12) after soundly beating Group B rivals Malaysia 3-0 at the Bishan Stadium.
Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia – who beat Laos 5-1 in Sunday’s earlier match – are vying for the top two spots in the group, which come with passage to the final four of the competition.
Laos have no chance of progressing, having lost three games, while the other team in the group, Cambodia, have lost both their games so far.
In the rematch of the final of the last edition, Vietnam were quick off the blocks and, driven on by the majority of the 976 fans in attendance, harangued and harried their opponents from the get go.
Vietnam striker Nguyen Cong Phuong had two chances in the opening 10 minutes, blazing over from inside the box in the second minute before being denied by Malaysia goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
But the Malaysians, who were missing four players who tested positive for Covid-19 and two others – midfielder Junior Eldstal was injured and defender Dion Cools did not arrive in the Republic in time for the game – put up stiff resistance.
Their backline was breached, however, in the 32nd minute when Nguyen Quang Hai, the 2018 Suzuki Cup’s Most Valuable Player, left Khairul Fahmi rooted with a powerful shot from inside the box.
Three minutes later, Vietnam doubled their lead when Phuong cut inside his marker and finished coolly off the upright.
Malaysian coach Tan Cheng Hoe made a double substitution before the start of the second half, sending on midfielder Kogileswaran Raj and striker Guilherme de Paula, but the changes were in vain as they could not carve out a clear scoring opportunity.
In the 89th minute, midfielder Nguyen Hoang Duc put the exclamation mark on an impressive win with a low left-footed shot.
Despite the win, Vietnam are third in Group B, level with Indonesia and Malaysia on six points, but with an inferior goal difference.
Vietnam and Indonesia, however, have a game in hand on Malaysia, who will likely need to beat Indonesia next Sunday to progress to the semi-final.
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