Vietnam start AFF U23 Championship with big win against Laos
Defending champion Vietnam defeated Laos 4-1 in their opening game of the 2023 AFF U23 Championship on Sunday and moved closer to the semifinals.
Vietnam won big as expected, but had a difficult time when Laos equalized at the beginning of the second half. However, the substitutions contributed three consecutive goals to help the team come back and won 4-1. With this result, Vietnam only need a draw against Philippines on Tuesday to secure a place in the semifinals.
Coach Hoang Anh Tuan used the starting lineup with three 18-year-old players and three 20-year-olds. More than half of the lineup played for the U23 for the first time, but the young players were not overwhelmed and dominated Laos from the opening. After squandering many opportunities, Vietnam opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with Khuat Van Khang’s impressive assist. The midfielder flicked the outside of his left foot to make a pass to Vo Hoang Minh Khoa, who easily tapped it in.
Khoa was not too happy after scoring. He and his teammates went to the corner and bowed their heads to commemorate the three HAGL members who died in a traffic accident on August 12.
Khang impressed with the assist but had an unsportsmanlike act when he elbowed Laos goalkeeper Solasak Thilavong in an aerial duel at the end of the first half. The referee only warned Khang and didn’t book him.
Laos didn’t play too sloppy, as they created a few good chances in the first half. At the beginning of the second half, Vietnam was conceded from a set-piece. Goalkeeper Quan Van Chuan jumped up but couldn't punch the ball far away and let striker Thipphachan Khambai finish into the empty net to equalize 1-1.
After the equalizer, Laos played with confidence, but in the end, the difference in strength between the two teams was also shown. Within four minutes, Vietnam scored two consecutive goals thanks to Nguyen Minh Quang and Dinh Xuan Tien.
In the 72nd minute, Xuan Tien headed back for Minh Quang to dribble past a Laos defender before beating the goalkeeper with an accurate finish. Four minutes later, it was Tien again who received the ball in the box from Vo Nguyen Hoang's cross and then flicked it past keeper Thilavong.
While Vietnam's playing style under Hoang Anh Tuan remains somewhat undefined, his impact has been evident through well-timed substitutions. During the second half, Xuan Tien and Nguyen Hoang came on as substitutes and both played a role in two goals. In the final moments, another substitution, Bui Vi Hao, sealed Vietnam's 4-1 victory with a tap-in.