Defending AFF Championship winners Thailand earned themselves a valuable advantage for the upcoming second leg after forcing hosts Vietnam to a 2-2 draw in Friday’s final first leg at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi.
Thailand head coach Alexandre Polking made the shocking decision of resting top scorer Teerasil Dangda for Friday’s match, along with two other key players. The Changsuek also changed their way of approaching the game, leading to a tense opening few minutes between the two sides.
The deadlock was broken in the 24th minute after a perfect cross from Que Ngoc Hai was greeted by a diving Nguyen Tien Linh who managed to left Kritsada Kaman eating his dust, with the Becamex Binh Duong ace unleashing a powerful shot that went beyond the reaches of Thailand goalkeeper Kampol Pathomakkakul to make it 1-0 to Vietnam.
Conceding the opener apparently stung Thailand into immediate action and the Changsuek had two close chances to equalize in the first half – Dang Van Lam denying Peeradol Chamratsamee in the 37th minute before a 43rd minute free-kick from Theerathon Bunmathan struck the crossbar.
Thailand finally got the equalizer that they’ve been looking for in the 48th minute. A lofted ball from Theerathon caught the Vietnamese defense off-guard, allowing Poramet Arjvirai to cut his way into the Golden Dragons’ backline and beat Van Lam with a well-taken shot.
The Changsuek then claimed the lead in the 63rd minute, with Theerathon once again being the mastermind. The Buriram United defender found Sarach Yooyen, who rifled home past Van Lam to make it 2-1 Thailand.
But just as the Thailand camp were preparing to celebrate a vital win that could become an excellent platform for the Changsuek to build on in the second leg, Vietnam substitute Vu Van Thanh blasted home the Golden Dragons’ equalizer in the 88th minute, taking advantage of a corner kick that was cleared poorly by the Thai defense.
With the first leg ending in a 2-2 stalemate, it’s still all to play for coming into the second leg on January 16th at the Thammasat Stadium in Pathum Thani Province. Thailand, however, will have the solace of scoring two important away goals that would serve to their advantage should the second leg ends in a 0-0 or a 1-1 draw.