Vietnam hold on for an Honourable Draw

Compared to their previous game, Qatar started off full of attacking virtue. With Mesaad Al Hamad dropped, the back line was a standard 4, and the formation was 4-2-3-1. The other player missing is the suspended Hussain Yaser Abdulrahman, while the incomers, Adel Mohamed on the left, and Magid Hassan on the right have both been detailed to push up in the attack. Vietnam are fielding 4-4-2, unchanged from the XI that started against the United Arab Emirates. The stadium is full with people sitting in the aisles, and a tremendous noise gets up whenever the home side have the ball. That said, Qatar are clearly enjoying the lions share of the possession in the early stages. They may need to get and defend a lead, as under an overcast sky and without a breeze at the start, conditions feel heavier and more humid than the last game, despite the later kick off.

The best early chances fell to the Qatar’s Uruguayan import Sebastian Quintana, on the 17th minute a long shot was well held by the goalkeeper diving , while in the 29th he broke into the area, again forcing a save from Duong Hong Son, with the defence bundling the ball away before Magid Hassan could react. Vietnam did little until the 32 minute, when long and speculative shot from Phan Than Binh should easily have been tidied up by Saqr in the Qatar goal. Instead he led it squeeze through his hands and roll slowly into the goal. Three minutes later, a quick 1-2 with Le Cong Vinh left Binh in a similar position, but this time he shot wide. Even after this, Qatar continued to enjoy more possession, but Quintana looked to be their only threat until Waleed Abdulla lifted the ball over the bar in injury time.

As the game went into the second half, Vietnam played with increasing confidence, and this was reflected around the ground, with chants echoing around the stadium. Qatar, continued to provide a threat, especially from free kicks, even from as many as 30 yards out, a distance from which Waleed Abdulla hit the target in the 53rd minute, but found Duong Hong Son again as his equal. The disarray after a cleared free kick minutes later could also have been dangerous, Obaod Koni getting a free header in space, but badly misdirecting it. Vietnam had to rearrange the back four after this as Vu Nhu Thanh was injured. Pham Hung Dung came on at centre half, and Phung Van Nhiem went out to left back. Qatar brought on Sayd Bedhir for Waleed Abdulla, which meant switching to 4-4-2. Qatar should have levelled on 61 minutes, when a shot from Adel Mohamed on the left hit the post, the ball was then worked right to Quintana who shot narrowly wide. Qatar pushed forward with a further shot from Quintana, and then Son having to dive at Magid Hassan’s feet. Vietnam are a well organised team, but at time they looked like being pushed away by the physical presence of their opponents. When they got possession, Binh always threatened to lose his marker, but was not hitting the target again.

Qatar’s second substitution, on 73 minutes saw Adel Mohamed replaced by Ali Yahya. Vietnam had a great chance after this when Le Cong Vinh dispossessed Mustafa Abdulla on the edge of the area, but his angled shot went over, and his team were soon under pressure again. A typical Qatar move saw Sayd Bedhir clear on the wing in the 76th minute, but having to cut the ball back, to Quintana, who found himslef crowded out by the defence. Inevitably, when the scores were levelled, in the 78th minute, it was Quintana who scored, heading in at the far post after a cross ftom Yahya was deflected away from Son at the near post. Qatar then brought on their last substitute, Madji Siddiq, replacing Magid Hassan in midfield. This left Vietnam badly in need of some relief if they were to hold on to the draw for the last ten minutes. Nguyen Minh Chuyen came on for Phan Van Tai Em, as a swop in midfield, but this almost led to calamity as the Quintana bypassed the sub to cross into the area, where Yahya’s shot was deflected by Son onto the bar, and meeting the rebound, Yahya headed just over. Meanwhile the Vietnamese goalkeeper was spending more time on the ground than on his feet, with two long injury breaks. Vietnam were going to have to hold on if they wanted a draw, with what breaks they got being wasted with long distance shots. When Madji Siddiq shot wide 5 minutes into injury time, Vietnam knew the point was safe, but this did not stop them replacing Binh with Nguyen Anh Duc with just a couple of kicks to play.

The result will be seen by both teams as an honourable draw, Vietnam still lead the group with four points, and Japan will have the same should they beat the UAE tomorrow. Qatar have two points, and know that they too have a chance on the final day. Although seven home players have now picked up a yellow card, there will be no suspensions on Monday.

Home advantage continued to pay big dividends in the earlier game, when two second half goals saw Thailand to victory over Oman. Seeing some of the game on the television prior to the Vietnam game, it appeared that Oman did not have it in them for the long haul, while Thailand were determined not to be put in the shade by their neighbours. While one scenario sees both Thailand and Vietnam as qualifying, and possibly meeting in the next round, one must wonder about the possibility of them both going through as runners-up. Will the AFC really want Thailand to play in Vietnam and vice versa?