Hoang Anh Gia Lai U21s beat Viet Nam U21s 3-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in regular time in the first semi-final of the International U21 Football Tournament in HCM City yesterday.
Gia Lai will play the winners of the second semi-final between South Korean U19s and Singapore today.
Hoang Anh Gia Lai started the game in an attacking fashion, playing attractive one-touch football.
Top striker Nguyen Cong Phuong had the first chance two minutes into the game, but his close range shot was parried by Viet Nam national keeper Quang Tuan.
Gia Lai took control of the game with better ball possession in front of 20,000 fans at Thong Nhat Stadium.
Striker Nguyen Cong Phuong opened the scoring for Hoang Anh Gia Lai in the 11th minute with a freekick from the edge of the 18-yard-box.
Captain Phuong nearly doubled his team’s lead in the 18th minute with another freekick that skimmed the post.
The Viet Nam team regrouped after their shaky start and started to push forward, but their strikers struggled to get through the well-organised defence of the Central Highlands team.
Pham Xuan Manh finally equalised in the 36th minute by pouncing on a rebound, and striker Lam Ti Phong gave his team the lead in the 43rd minute, converting from Nhu Tuan’s freekick with a sharp finish.
Hoang Anh Gia Lai’s coach Nguyen Quoc Tuan made changes at half time as his team went in search of an equaliser.
In the 78th minute, top striker Cong Phuong found the far corner after breaking through three defenders inside the 18-yard box.
The 20-year-old striker had other chances to finish the game, but was unable to find the back of the net.
The match ended in a 2-2 draw, and the two teams went to a penalty shoot-out that Hoang Anh Gia Lai won 3-2.
Last year, Viet Nam U21s also lost to Hoang Anh Gia Lai in a penalty shoot-out in the semi-finals in Can Tho City.