THAILAND SURVIVES EARLY VIETNAMESE ONSLAUGHT TO GRAB WOMEN’S FOOTBALL GOLD
The gold around the necks of Thailand’s women’s football team perfectly complemented their royal blue uniforms.
The Thai women survived a jittery start to beat rival Vietnam 2-1 in the championship game of the 2013 SEA Games on Friday night. They knocked off the defending champions to win their second title in the last three SEA Games and fifth overall.
The Thai women were coming off a draining semifinal win over Myanmar, a game that ended 2-2, with Thailand advancing 9-8 after the shootout. Playing less than 48 hours after that game, they seemed to lack energy in the first 30 minutes of the gold-medal game.
The Vietnamese, meanwhile, had a much easier road to the final. They beat Malaysia 4-0 in the semifinal and early on were the sharper team in the last match of the SEA Games by a long shot.
There was no shortage of aggressive play by both the Thai and Vietnamese women and the girl-on-girl action resulted in five players being taken off on stretchers with a variety of injuries caused by knee-on-knee collisions, heads slamming into each other and shin-on-shin clashes.
Vietnam’s Le Thu Thanh Huong was bloodied when her nose was clipped by a Thai knee and there was obvious trauma to that part of her face when she returned to the match later on.
There was little in the way of good scoring chances in the first 30 minutes of the game, which was dominated by Vietnam.
The Thai team had a tough time to get the ball past center and the few times they did, their opponents were quick on the counterattack to keep the pressure on the Thai women.
Vietnam scored their lone goal of the match in the 37th minute. Nguyen TN ripped a shot that forced goalkeeper Chor Charoenying to leap into the air in a failed attempt to make the save. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar and landed at the feet of Nguyen Thi Minh Nguyet and she wasted no time in booting it into a wide open net.
The notion of playing from behind brought a spark to the Thai team and it didn’t take long for them to knot the score.
In the 40th minute, Seesraum Naphat blocked a clearing shot in the Vietnam box and she took one step before she nailed a quick shot that surprised goalkeeper Dang Tkt for the equalizer.
The Thai team simply wasn’t the same after that. They played with much more emotion, and with the gold medal as the prize each player threw their body in front of Vietnamese shots with reckless abandon.
Thailand took the lead for the first time in the second minute of the second half on a play that you would have to think the Vietnamese keeper would love to have back.
Maijaraen Anootsara attempted a cross to a teammate and the ball looped over the head of goalkeeper Tran and when she didn’t attempt to snag it, she paid for her folly. She simply glanced up as the ball sailed over her head and the cross cum shot dropped into the net about two inches past the post for the winning tally.
From that point on, the Thais smothered their opponents and gave the Vietnamese precious little in the way of offensive penetration.
Tensions mounted a handful of times as frustrations got the better of some of the Vietnamese players, who were seen expressing their doubts to the officials about ball possessions on line-ins.
As the referee blew her whistle to end the game, some Thai players dropped to the field of play with the look of joy on their faces. The champions mobbed their goalkeeper and there were hugs all around.
The Vietnamese took losing graciously, although you could see the anguish on their faces.
The bronze medal game was played before the title match and Myanmar rebounded from the emotion-draining loss to the eventual champions by beating Malaysia 6-0.