Suzuki Cup: Vietnam open title defence with 2-0 win over a dogged Laos

Vietnam’s Nguyen Cong Phuong (centre) in action against Laos in the AFF Suzuki Cup match at Bishan Stadium on Dec 6, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Vietnam’s Ho Tan Tai (left) fighting for the ball against Laos’ Nalongsit Chanhthalangsy during their AFF Suzuki Cup match on Dec 5, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Vietnam fans cheer as their national team takes on Laos in the Suzuki Cup at Bishan Stadium on Dec 6, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Vietnam’s Phan Van Duc (centre) celebrates after scoring a goal against Laos in the Suzuki Cup at Bishan Stadium on Dec 6, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Fans without tickets watch from a vantage point outside the stands as Vietnam take on Laos in the Suzuki Cup at Bishan Stadium on Dec 6, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Defending Suzuki Cup champions Vietnam began the defence of their title with a 2-0 win on Monday (Dec 6) over a stubborn Laos side in their Group B clash at the Bishan Stadium.

Laos, with Singaporean V. Selvaraj at the helm as head coach, had set up in an ultra-defensive 5-4-1 formation, content to soak up the early pressure from their opponents.

But cheered on by the majority of the 812 fans in attendance, Vietnam opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Nguyen Cong Phuong put the finishing touch on a slick move.

Ten minutes into the second-half, they doubled that advantage when Phan van Duc headed in at the back post after Ho Tan Tai had found him with an inch-perfect cross.

Laos very nearly equalised in the 73rd minute when, on a rare foray forward, French-born striker Billy Ketkeophomphone was put through on goal, but his effort was repelled by Vietnam goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh.

Two minutes later, Vietnam could have added a third from the penalty spot but Laos goalkeeper Keo Souvannasangso denied Vu Van Thanh with a superb save.

In an earlier Group B match, Malaysia beat Cambodia 3-1. The other team in the group are Indonesia.

Analysis

The scoreline may not have been impressive but Vietnam showed why they are still the team to beat at the Suzuki Cup.

They had the patience to break down a dogged and disciplined Laos side, who have been well-drilled by former Singapore coach V. Sundram Moorthy, now their technical director, and head coach V. Selvaraj.

The Vietnamese players were in full control from the get go, stroking the ball around the pitch to stretch and tire their opponents.

Their players also oozed individual quality with their sublime touches on the ball and quick thinking off it.

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