HANOI - There was no Miracle in Hanoi this time as the Philippine Azkals, needing a big win to save their 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, instead fell apart in the last 10 minutes and conceded two goals to fall 1-2 and crash out in the semifinal stage.
Coupled with a similar 1-2 loss at home in Bacolod, the Azkals lost 2-4 on aggregate as they saw their Suzuki Cup campaign end in the semifinal for the fourth time in the past five tournaments.
Nguyen Quang Hai put the hosts ahead in the 83rd minute with an easy tap-in off an assist from Phan Van Duc. Four minutes later, Nguyen Cong Phuong put the outcome beyond doubt with a strike from the center of the box. James Younghusband salvaged a measure of pride for the Azkals with a goal in the 89th minute following a scramble in the penalty box. But the Azkals could not make any further headway as time ran out.
Vietnam thus advances to the final where they will face Malaysia in a two-leg series on December 11 and 15.
"We took some chances on offense and we paid the price," said Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. "I think Vietnam is the best team in the tournament. Good luck to them in the final."
The hosts dominated possession for the first 25 minutes of the match, although neither side could create any clear attempts. Nguyen Quang Hai tried a fancy bicycle shot in the 28th minute inside the box which was easily gathered by Patrick Deyto.
The Azkals began to assert themselves more in the latter part of the first half, getting more possession, although not enough to trouble Vietnam keeper Dang Van Lam.
In the second half, the hosts were content to sit back on defense, knowing a goalless draw would see them through. The Azkals began controlling possession but failed to make any headway. Instead, it was Vietnam that scored twice as the Azkals' defense, spread thin with more men sent forward in hopes of scoring, collapsed.
- Michael Falksgaard and Manny Ott were injured, leaving the Azkals with just five healthy bodies on the bench.
- Patrick Deyto and Amani Aguinaldo made their tournament debuts.
- Eriksson praised the Vietnamese crowd, which was estimated at over 40,000 and who were already marching towards My Dinh Stadium over two hours before kick-off. "We're jealous of them."
- This is the first Suzuki Cup final for Vietnam in 10 years.