Burma Earns Shot at Gold With 2-1 Win Over Vietnam

By Andrew D. Kaspar 13 June 2015

RANGOON — Burma edged past Vietnam in the semifinal match of the Southeast Asian Games football competition on Saturday, winning 2-1 and setting the stage for a gold medal clash early next week.

The two sides looked evenly matched in the first half, with play ranging from end to end in the opening 45 minutes, but a handball inside the 18-yard box gave Burma’s under-23 footballers a chance to break the stalemate. On a free kick for Burma within striking range, Ngoc Thang Ho had the ill-conceived impulse to bolster the Vietnamese wall of defense by extending his left elbow, altering the ball’s trajectory and, with it moments later, the score line.

Si Thu Aung went on to send Vietnamese goalkeeper Minh Long Phi the wrong way from the penalty spot, firing the ball low and right to put Burma up 1-0 in the 38th minute. The Burmese defender has had an impressive SEA Games campaign, tallying five goals in five games, including a stoppage time leveler against Cambodia that saw Burma enter the semifinals undefeated.

Vietnam mounted a formidable campaign of its own in the second half of Saturday’s match, pressing the attack in an edge-of-your-seat final 45 minutes for Burmese fans.

The young White Angels appeared content to sit on their lead and ride out the onslaught, with only the occasional counterattack calling the Vietnamese defense to action. The pressure proved too much in the 71st minute, when Huy Toan Vo latched onto a loose ball to slot home the equalizer.

But the Burmese responded less than 10 minutes later, when captain Nay Lin Tun’s deflected strike sailed past Minh Long Phi and into the back of the net.

The nail-biting home stretch brought no shortage of tense moments and, on the Burmese side, injuries of dubious authenticity. As the clock ran down, match officials signaled for four minutes of stoppage time, which dragged on for more than six in part owing to Burmese goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Phyo’s inexplicable ankle pains after a shot from Vietnam sailed well wide of the goal.

At the final whistle, coach Kyi Lwin sprinted over to the sizeable contingent of Burmese fans on hand at Singapore’s National Stadium, basking in the collective embrace of supporters who have been a vocal presence throughout the team’s journey to the finals.

Burma beat Indonesia, host Singapore and the Philippines on its way to Saturday’s match, with a 3-3 draw to Cambodia on Wednesday leaving the team at the top of Group A with 10 points.

The White Angels will play competition favorites Thailand or Indonesia on Monday. The winner of that semifinal match will be decided on Saturday evening.