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Vietnam lose once-in-a-lifetime AFC U23 final to Uzbekistan at last minute

Saturday, January 27, 2018, 19:32 GMT+7

The Golden Stars continued to bring emotions to the snowy finale of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship against Uzbekistan, who wrestled to find a last-grasp goal in extra time to win the title on Saturday.

Vietnam, as usually, displayed a fantastic fighting spirit under extraordinary weather conditions in China.

The Vietnamese players had inspired fans around Asia with their tough performance from the group stage through to the semis before the final showdown, their first ever at Asian levels, with the Uzbeks.

It heavily snowed in Changzhou before the game so many fans might have thought the Vietnamese and the Uzbeks were playing ice hockey at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center in Changzhou.

The Vietnamese played like real warriors even though most of them had never seen snow in real life, as they come from a country where the norm is 30 degrees Celsius.

Both sides drew 1-1 in 90 minutes before the Uzbeks scored the winner at the end of the second half of extra time to become the champions.

Vietnam had waited for the whistle to take the game to a penalty shootout.

The Vietnamese got off to a bad start when they allowed Uzbek striker Ashurmatov to get away from his marker and headed home a corner just eight minutes into the game.

Uzbek players celebrate after  scoring the opening. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Uzbek players celebrate after scoring the opener. Photo: Tuoi Tre

However, Vietnamese midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai equalized in the 41st minute with a stunning free kick into the top-left corner, after striker Cong Phuong was tackled just outside of the box.

Hai scored five goals at the championship and is one of the candidates for the man of the tourney title.

The two sides entered half-time with no more goals scored in the remainder of the first half.

Vietnamese players celebrate after scoring an equalizer against Uzbekistan. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vietnamese players celebrate after scoring an equalizer against Uzbekistan. Photo: Tuoi Tre

There was nothing to separate the sides in the second half, making it the third consecutive game at the tournament that the Vietnamese players had had to play through extra time.

Vietnam had beaten Iraq and Qatar on penalties in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

The game looked set to be heading to penalties then substitute Sidorov stole it late on to win the tournament for Uzbekistan after netting a corner in the 120th minute.

It will be a very long time before Vietnam can make it to a continental finale again.

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