The national team last played here five years ago, and the crowd at the Thong Nhat Stadium was happy to finally see the Golden Star Warriors in action again. And Park Hang-seo’s men didn’t disappoint the home supporters.
In this friendly to prepare for the AFF Cup at the end of this year, coach Park started the game with many changes, most notably with Pham Tuan Hai replacing the familiar face of Nguyen Tien Linh up front, and the 24-year-old player did not let his coach down.
With a goal in each half, Hai bagged his first-ever goals for Vietnam and is certainly on his way to following Linh’s footsteps as one of the best Vietnamese forwards, and potentially solving Park’s headache of a lack of quality strikers.
Nguyen Quang Hai made his mark in the 32nd minute with a curving long shot from the right. The shot didn’t go in, but the corner kick that came from his shot a minute later was enough for the hosts to score the opener.
From Hai’s corner, the ball was fed to the far post for Vietnamese-German Adriano Schmidt who used his height to provide a brilliant headed assist to Pham Tuan Hai waiting in the middle to nod in an easy header.
It was Hai's first goal for the national team, bringing momentum to the Hanoi FC player and his teammates for the rest of the match. On this form, it could well be the first of many for the lively forward.
Ending the first half a goal behind, Afghanistan started to attack rapidly in the second half. But Vietnam, with a batch of key players coming in, made it even harder for the visitors to find the equaliser.
And when the men in red could no longer their physicality after several unsuccessful attempts, Vietnam put the final nail in the coffin.
Two minutes before stoppage time, Tuan Hai completed his double with a superb solo run on the right wing, nutmegging Afghanistan's last defender before hitting a deadly low shot that beat goalie Ovays Azizi, sealing the win for Vietnam.
Beating their opponents 2-0 will serve as good preparation for Park’s players ahead of the V.League’s return this June and the upcoming AFF Cup at the end of the year.