A battling performance from Sydney FC’s youth team wasn’t enough to prevent a 3-0 semi-final loss to the Vietnam under 21 side in the Thanhnien Newspaper Cup.
In front of a partisan 10,000 home crowd at Pleiku Stadium, the Sky Blues showed plenty of heart and determination against older opponents, proving their presence at the international tournament was justified.
Coach Brian Dene chose a more experienced line-up than the one that began the game against Malaysia on Wednesday with Theo Kofinas and Josh MacDonald replacing the suspended Roberto Speranza and injured Reno Zenari.
The hosts thought they had taken the lead in the 2nd minute when Ha Minh Tuan ran free to slot home. His celebrations were cut short however by the linesman’s flag.
Five minutes later Sydney FC had their own chance when the ball fell to Luke Clifford on the right edge of the six yard box, but the full back could only find the side netting.
The next real chance came just before the half hour mark when Min Tuan got between the two central defenders but could only fire at Norval, who stopped the powerful shot before falling on the loose ball.
Vietnam took the lead soon afterwards. Dinh Bao was given space just inside the box to turn and shoot and the striker made no mistake with a right foot effort.
The goal gave the hosts a lift and they soon almost made it two. A ball inside the full back put Hoang Thinh into the clear but Norval was quickly off his line to block the shot with his legs on the edge of his six yard box.
Sydney almost levelled things just before half time when Josh MacDonald latched onto a good pass from Peter Triantis but the keeper saved his shot on the angle.
The Sky Blues were still in the game at half time but their task got harder straight after the break when Vietnam doubled their advantage.
Winger Phi Son dribbled down the right before pulling the ball back from the byline to Dinh Bao. His shot hit the post and rolled along the goalline to the unmarked Minh Tuan to slot home from 3 yards. Sydney’s defenders appealed for offside but the referee waved away their protestations.
Vietnam continued to press but created little and Sydney began to threaten themselves with Triantis almost recreating his free kick goal against Malaysia.
Sydney were battling hard and showing signs of pulling something out of the bag but the game was put beyond doubt with around ten minutes to go. Winger Minh Tuan took on full back Zac Nicolis and came inside to slot the ball past Norval at his near post.
The game was done and dusted but for a late sending off when the two goal hero Minh Tuan elbowed Luke Clifford below the belt and will now miss the final for Vietnam.
Sydney FC will face Thailand in the 3rd/4th place play-off on Sunday afternoon.
Vietnam Under 21’s 3 (Dinh Bao, Minh Tuan 2) d. Sydney FC 0
Referee: Mongkolchai Pechsri
Sydney FC: 1. Ryan Norval ©, 2. Keifer Dotti 3. Aaron Calver, 5. Matthew Stewart (6. Anthony Kalik), 7. Joshua MacDonald, 8. Peter Triantis, 10. Tom Slater (18. Zackary Nicolis), 11. Christopher Naumoff, 15.Luke Clifford, 16 Alec Urosevski, 19. Theo Kofinas (14. Luke Jenner).
Subs not used: 20. Anthony Bouzanis (gk), 21. Boden Allport.
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