Ha Duc Chinh blasted a second-half hattrick to lead Vietnam to a sizzling 4-0 win over hosts Laos at the National Sports Complex Stadium tonight.
For their efforts, Vietnam will face Thailand, who earlier whipped Malaysia 5-0 in the other semifinal tie, here on Friday.
A superb first minute strike from flanker Ho Minh Di paved the way for a smashing 4-0 victory tonight.
Laos, who were stung by the loss of their star striker Maitee just before the match, tried hard to put the brakes on their opponents but were unable to stop the deadly attack mounted by Minh Di, skipper Pham Trong Hoa and Lam Thuan.
“The confidence is growing in the team. We had a slow start but now the team is at a good level,” said Vietnam coach Hoang Anh Tuan afterwards. “It will be tough in the final against Thailand but I believe that it is anybody’s game.”
The fans took their places in the stadium long before the match was due to start. Needless to say, expectations were running high on both sides of the divide.
By the time the game started over 25,000 fans had packed the stadium. It was an enormous turnout especially since it’s a working day here.
What the Laos fans did not know was that one of their star players, Maitee was replaced at the last minute as he was ill. In fact, the team line-up was already issued but had to be changed just minutes before the kick-off.
It was a blow for the home team but things got a whole lot worse just over a minute into the game when the nippy Ho Minh Di latched on to cross from Lam Thuan and slammed into the bottom left corner. There was no way Saymanolinh Paseuth could save the attempt.
The Vietnam fans erupted into a massive roar and continued supporting their heroes in the hope they would score more. Laos had a few shots including a miss
from Aphixay Thanakhanty. Minh Di was up in arms as he could have doubled the score in the 40th minute but his shot was well caught.
The second half saw Laos doing their utmost to get back into the game, But to their horror, Duc Minh addded a second in the 51st minute. Duc Minh was all fired up and scored a third in the 59th minute. The goal virtually ended any hopes of a Laos comeback. Duc Minh sealed his hattrick in the 83rd minute.
“The injury to Maitee was an issue where the decision was made before the game not to field him against Vietnam,” said Laos coach Phan Ton Loi. “We tried hard but with the injuries to several players was an issue.”