Vietnam, who have already booked a berth in the semi-finals, claim the top spot of Group B after beating an enthusiastic Cambodian side despite being without a player for most of the playing time.
Cambodia, who had lost both of their previous games, needed no time to surprise Vietnamese defense with a number of sharp attacks. Their talisman Chan Vathanka showed how dangerous he is with an incisive run, forcing Truong Dinh Luat to commit a foul just outside the box. The 33-year-old was shown a straight red card only 7 minutes into the game and will miss the first leg of the semi-finals.
Despite being reduced to ten players, Vietnam still proved their superiority as their attackers caused a lot of trouble up front. The deadlock was finally broken in the 21th minute when Nguyen Van Toan found space on the right wing and delivered an early cross to Le Cong Vinh. The skipper smartly cut inside before curling the ball through the Cambodian keeper with a skillful first-touch.
The Khmer came close to equalize in the 33th minute when Chan Vathanaka’s corner kick found Bin Chantha in the box. However, the midfielder’s powerful header was punched away by Vietnam keeper Tran Nguyen Manh.
Cambodia continued to push forward but could not break Vietnamese defense as the first half ended 1-0 in favour of the Golden Stars.
Soon after the break, Vietnam doubled their lead with an embarrassing own goal from Nub Tola in the 50th minute. The defender’s clumsy clearance accidently turned into a lob from outside the box, leaving Um Serei no chance to save.
Vietnam continued to look for their third goal with several chances created but their poor finishes let them down. It was Cambodia who showed how to score when Chreng Polroth fired a thunder strike into Vietnam’s top corner in the 65th minute. The goal is easily one of the best in the group stage.
As Cambodia’s hope was revived, the Khmer continued to put in more pressure up front to seek the equalizer. They almost levelled when Polroth’s powerful freekick hit the crossbar in the 84 minute.
Vietnam managed to hold on until the final whistle to maintain their perfect record in the group stage. As Group B winners, they will face Indonesia in the semi-finals. The other clash will be between Southeast Asian powerhouse Thailand and Myanmar, who has clinched their first appearance in the knock-out stage since 2004.