HA NOI — Japan yesterday came from behind to beat Viet Nam, 3-2, to emerge as the top team in Group B of the ASEAN Football Federation U19 Nutifood Cup.
With the defeat, Viet Nam failed to avenge its 0-7 loss to the same team during an international match held earlier this year. But both teams have already qualified for the semifinals, with Japan going up against Thailand, runners up in Group A, and Viet Nam facing Myanmar in separate matches to be held at the My Dinh National Stadium here.
During the game, Nguyen Van Toan brought the crowd to its feet with the hosts first goal, a surprise long-range shot from outside the box, at the 21st minute.
Viet Nam had several opportunities to pad their lead as Japan reshuffled their line-up and tried to score past goalie Tran Minh Toan but failed to get past the hosts’ tough first-half defence.
Coach Suzuki Masakazu asked his side to speed up play in the second half, which saw a different Japan that seemed to have awakened after the break.
They nearly pocketed the equaliser when Okugawa Masaya’s kick left Minh Toan behind, but the ball hit the pole.
However, Minh Toan was not lucky the second time around, as Ideguchi Yosuke converted on a shot near the penalty area. Japan then took the lead with a goal in the 58th minute in spite of Toan’s efforts.
The hosts played more aggressively after that, with consecutive threatening attacks. Captain Nguyen Cong Phuong set up a great pair with Van Toan in the front line. They stirred up the Japanese defence with attempts on the 63rd, 74th and 82nd minute but failed to convert.
With simple but effective plays, Japan penetrated the hosts’weak second-half defence and scored on a goal by Nakano Masaomi at the 84th minute, and another by Kaneko Shota at the 88th minute.
The hosts managed to score a goal at the end of the game after Van Toan was faulted in the box. Viet Nam were given a penalty which Phuong easily converted, making it 2-3. It was Phuong’s second goal in two matches.