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Sorrowful night: Vietnam’s battle for AFF Cup final ends in despair

Thursday, December 08, 2016, 14:38 GMT+7
Sorrowful night: Vietnam’s battle for AFF Cup final ends in despair
Vietnamese players react after the game against Indonesia in Hanoi on December 7, 2016.

Wednesday evening was a night to forget for diehard Vietnamese football fans, and not just because their beloved team lost the battle for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 final on home soil.

After a poor performance, a 13-year veteran bid adieu to the squad and his dreams of a second AFF Cup Championship. 

Adding insult to injury, Vietnamese fans left a poor impression on the Indonesian visitors by attacking their bus.

Vietnam only needed a 1-0 win as they hosted Indonesia in Hanoi after a 1-2 defeat in the first-leg game last week, but the Golden Stars fell flat in the 120-minute fight, coming up short with a 2-2 draw that allowed the visitors to advance with a 4-3 victory on aggregate.


Vietnamese players cry after the loss.

The night was an emotional roller coaster for local fans, especially the 40,000 spectators who filled the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, as feelings continuously shifted between disappointment and hope, jubilation and dejection.

After Indonesia’s top striker, Stefano Lilipaly, silenced the stadium with an opening goal in the 54th minute, the referee only rubbed salt into Vietnamese wounds as he booked Vietnam’s goalie Tran Nguyen Manh with a red card in the 76th minute.

Defender Que Ngoc Hai was forced to stand between the posts as Vietnam had no substitutions remaining.

Hope was later restored for Vietnam as Vu Van Thanh netted an equalizer in the 83rd minute, before Vu Minh Tuan scored a stunning goal in injury time, sending the game into extra time.


Vu Minh Tuan (L) celebrates after scoring the goal that restored hope for Vietnam.

The game reverted back to a somber tone just minutes into the first extra period when Manahati Lestusen scored a final goal for Indonesia from the penalty spot, shifting feelings from  joy and hope to sadness and despondency for the home team.

The 2-2 equalizer meant a 4-3 loss on aggregate for Vietnam and had fans leaving My Dinh without hope of a miracle.

In Ho Chi Minh City, diehard fans watching the game at public venues returned home with tears in their eyes.

Some fans seemed to lose their patience and released anger toward the visitors.

The Football Association of Indonesia said on its Twitter account that the bus carrying the team was “hit by a rock” allegedly thrown by “unscrupulous Vietnamese supporters” when they left My Dinh.

The team’s doctor and assistant coach were hit by broken glass, but there were no serious injuries, according to the tweet in Indonesian.

Sad goodbye

In the post-match conference, Vietnamese coach Nguyen Huu Thang paused briefly before extending an apology to fans for the forgettable loss.


Vietnam's coach Nguyen Huu Thang looks dejected after the game.

Vietnam had high hopes to clinch Southeast Asia’s top football cup for a second time following their first AFF Championship at My Dinh in 2008.

Last night was also the last-ever game for team captain Le Cong Vinh, who scored the decisive goal in the 2008 second-leg final against Thailand to bring the Golden Stars to victory.

Vinh, 31, announced his retirement after a 13-year national career in the locker room in an address filled with tears from himself and his teammates.

He was also seen weeping as the national anthem was played before the semifinal game and went on to perform poorly in the last match of his career.

The veteran striker lost his scoring instinct during last night’s match, with several misses.


Le Cong Vinh reacts after missing a chance.

Indonesia, having lost four AFF Cup finals between 2000 and 2010, will face either defending champions Thailand or Myanmar in the final match, staged over two home-and-away games on December 14 and 17.

The Thais beat hosts Myanmar 2-0 in the other semi in Yangon on Sunday and they will meet again in Bangkok on Thursday.

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