Vietnam, the defending champions, began their 2023 Southeast Asian Games men's football campaign in Cambodia with a 2-0 victory over Laos on Sunday evening.
The Vietnamese, who won the gold medal in men’s football at the delayed 2021 SE Asian Games organized in Hanoi in May 2022, were expected to have an easy game, but they faced strong resistance from their Lao opponents and sometimes stayed in a deadlock at Prince Stadium in Phnom Penh.
The junior Golden Stars got off to a great start in the second minute when Nguyen Van Tung headed the ball past Lao goalkeeper Solasak Thilavong into the net, following a good cross from Nguyen Thanh Nhan from the right side.
With the early lead, coach Philippe Troussier’s team tried to reduce the match’s tempo, but moments of sloppy defending gave Laos some good chances.
The remainder of the first half saw interesting back-and-forth attempts between the two teams.
|Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Tung celebrates his opening goal in their match against Laos at the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, April 30, 2023. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre
Despite some good chances created by both sides, notably Le Van Do’s freekick in the 16th minute which forced a flying save from keeper Thilavong, the first half ended with a one goal advantage to Vietnam.
In the second half, there were great chances for both teams to score, but both goalkeepers did their job well.
Toward the end of the match, Laos piled on the pressure to try to equalize, and came really close.
In the 75th minute, Theo Klein headed the ball from a free kick straight at the crossbar, and the subsequent shot by Chony Wenpaserth was saved by Quan Van Chuan.
The Vietnamese keeper also denied Anousone Xaypanya’s left-footed strike in the 88th minute from an unmarked position in the penalty box.
Laos’ equalizing efforts only subsided in the last minutes of the game after substitute Nguyen Quoc Viet delivered a tidy close-range finish from Khuat Van Khang’s low cross in a counter-attack, closing out the tough 2-0 victory for Vietnam.
|Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Tung dribbles the ball past Lao players in their Group B match at the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, April 30, 2023. Photo: N.K / Tuoi Tre
Vietnam got their first three points and now share Group B’s top position with Thailand, who beat Singapore 3-1 in another match on the same day.
Elsewhere in Group A, hosts Cambodia hammered Timor Leste 4-0 in their opening match, while Indonesia confidently defeated the Philippines 3-0.
Vietnam will play their second match of the group stage against Singapore on Wednesday.
The 2023 Southeast Asian Games is taking place in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap Province, Preah Sihanouk Province, Kampot Province, and Kep Province until May 17, with the opening ceremony scheduled for May 5.