Vietnam and Myanmar fought out the first goalless draw of the 2018 AFF Championship on Tuesday night, with fans of the Golden Stars lamenting that the referee had stolen yet another away victory for their team.
Myanmar did not waste their home advantage to put pressure on Vietnam right from the beginning of the third Group A game, but failed to break the Vietnamese disciplined defense despite their greater possession.
The greater part of the first half saw the two sides wasting a number of opportunities with a tit-for-tat strategy.
From the corner kick of Xuan Truong in the 32nd minute, Anh Duc had a chance to comfortably head the ball to Myanmar’s net after finding space at the back post. But the 33-year-old Vietnamese striker was off the target.
In a quick counter-attack by Vietnam in the 35th minute, a floated ball into the area was met by Phan Van Duc, but the defender had to watch his shot bounce back off the post.
Just two minutes later, dynamic midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai saw his powerful shot well saved by Burmese goalkeeper Htet Kyaw Zin.
Myanmar had Htet Kyaw Zin to thank after he repeatedly came to the rescue in the second half.
The home side somehow survived a series of chances from Vietnam, with Htet Kyaw Zin saving a point blank effort from Van Duc, before following it up seconds later with another fine save to deny Nguyen Cong Phuong.
Kyaw Zin’s ‘rescue saga’ continued as he saved Nguyen Quang Hai’s long-range effort on the spot at the last 15 official minutes, which was immediately followed by Nguyen Van Toan’s blasting the rebound into Myanmar’s net.
But the Vietnamese celebrations were cut short while Myanmar breathed a sigh of relief as the linesman rejected the goal by the offside flag.
Vietnamese fans and experts believed that their decisive goal was stolen by the referee as Van Toan was not in an offside position then.
Having won both of their first two games at the group stage, Vietnam and Myanmar both gave their all for a late win to secure the first ticket to the semifinals, but no goal was scored until the referee blew his whistle.
The result leaves both Vietnam and Myanmar on seven points, but the Golden Stars now ranks second with a lower goal difference.
The two top teams of each group will make it to the next round. Vietnam now look to replace Myanmar as Group A leaders as they will play Cambodia at home on November 24.
The Golden Stars won the AFF Championship, contested by ten nations affiliated to the ASEAN Football Federation, in 2008 and are hoping to claim the second title after ten years.