January 19 – Indonesia earned their first points in the competition by converting a decisive penalty versus a wasteful Vietnam side, as both teams went for the jugular in a battle at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
The win keeps the Indonesians in with a chance of qualifying for the last 16 knockout rounds
Indonesia opened the match with ferocious aggression that caught the Vietnamese off guard. Playing at a different level of pace and intent, Indonesia dominated the early stages of play.
An early chance was thwarted by the referee as he accidentally obstructed Marselino Ferdinan’s dribble towards goal.
Indonesia were angry with the resulting drop ball, feeling that the official had ruined a good opportunity to open the match with an early goal.
Regardless of their misfortune, Indonesia remained hungry for a goal in early play as Rafael Struick came close with a curling effort not far from nestling in the top right corner.
In the 12th minute and with Indonesia comfortably on top, Justin Hubner unleashed his impressive long throw, warning Vietnam of a potential new dynamic and forcing a save from Vietnam’s Nguyen.
Unable to properly absorb into the pace of the game Vietnam continued to give away possession as manager Philippe Troussier became increasingly frustrated on the sidelines.
With frustration growing, Vietnam resorted to long-range shots, with little success. The crowd behind the goal were more threatened than Indonesia’s goal.
Both teams were clearly determined to leave it all out on the pitch, which created a foul-fest atmosphere akin to a knockout game.
Sandy Walsh came close to putting his side in front in the 36th minute after powering an unmarked header towards the bottom left, resulting in a save from keeper Nguyen that was as impressive as it was important.
Minutes later, Indonesia were awarded a crucial penalty ahead of half time after a clumsy challenge in the box from Vietnam, who clearly tugged Struick’s shirt.
Indonesia captain Asnawi Bahar stepped up to take it, kissing the ball before smashing it into the top left corner. His team deserved the lead after a strong opening half for the Group D hopefuls.
Fuelled by the support from the stands, Hubner shaved the post with a glancing header to close the half.
Vietnam opted for a double substitution at half time in a bid to turn the game around – introducing youngster Van Khang Khuat and striker Le Pham Thanh to the battlefield. A duo with very little international experience, Troussier threw them into the mix looking for a moment of individual brilliance.
With the tempo switched in favour of the Vietnamese as they chased a goal, they forced a great save from Indonesia’s Sutaryadi, to keep out a long range effort that took a crucial deflection en route to goal.
The second half had picked up where the first left off with a pulsating energy as Vietnam raised their pace.
Vietnam’s best opportunity of the match came early after the break, as Van Tung Nguyen failed to convert a point-blank finish at full stretch.
Indonesian Captain Bahar, who scored the only goal of the game, was forced off the pitch in the 56th minute due to an injury concern. Vietnam’s eagerness to win back the ball sparked a flurry of knocks for Indonesia players, highlighted by a head injury to Jordi Amat.
With play paused for multiple minutes, the Indonesian medical team deployed a stretcher for the wounded defender after the player was struck by an elbow, his face bleeding.
Vietnam became more frenetic and in the 90th minute substitute Le returned to the stands after receiving a red card for a sliding challenge on Ferdinan. The reduction from 11 men to ten was a huge blow for Vietnam in the closing stages of the match.
With the final whistle edging closer, the red card sparked a late scramble but not enough to change the result.
Speaking immediately after the final whistle, Indonesia defender Walsh, said: “Its a massive win for us, for all the effort we’ve put in the last couple of months and even the last couple of years. It’s positive for us, an amazing feeling to have three points in the bag.
When questioned about his side’s chances when facing Japan next week, Walsh grinned: “Lets just enjoy this moment! It’s a massive three points for us in this Asia cup with a tough group. Anything is possible, we go with a good feeling toward the match with Japan. They are an amazing team but we can try to do something and it will be a great experience for us.”
Vietnam face group leaders Iraq but their campaign looks to be pretty much over.
Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, firstname.lastname@example.org