HAGL bounces back to beat MCTTPC at ASEAN soccer meet
Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Vietnam's Hoang Anh Gan Lai (HAGL) bounced back from its opening loss to beat MCTTPC of Laos 2-1 in a hard-fought Group C match in the LG Cup ASEAN Club Championship at the Bung Karno stadium here on Wednesday.
The win almost assures HAGL, which lost to Tangerang-based Persita 2-1 on Monday, a place in the quarterfinals given that Persita overcomes the Laotians in next Friday's match.
HAGL's technical director, Nguyen Vaw Vinh, said after the game that although he could not take Persita's win over MCTTPC for granted, he considered the host a much stronger team than the unheralded Laotians.
During Wednesday's game, before a poor show of spectators in the sprawling 100,000 capacity stadium, the Vietnamese started their game confidently in full swing, apparently in search of a big-scoring win after their Persita loss.
HAGL's Thai international striker Kiatisuk Senamuang put his team in front when he headed home from right flank about five minutes into the game. It was his second goal in the tournament.
However, expectations for more goals were not yet met as the Vietnamese team frequently failed to deliver more than a handful of scoring chances, largely because of a brilliant performance by MCTTPC's stand-in goalkeeper Phoxay Soukkathammavong.
Soukkathammavong, who came off the bench to replace injured Vongsackda Siantphongsay in the 37th minute, made numerous stunning saves.
His audacious effort came in the 49th minute, when he managed to save Kiatisuk's close-ranged shot. He was later named Man of the Match.
His outstanding performance appeared to inspire teammates to mount a counteract. They slowly began to take charge of the game with persistent play, led by captain forward Bounlap Khenkitisack. But they failed to transform their chances into a goal.
HAGL built its lead to 2-0 after Nguyen Minh Hai, who scored in the 60th minute, only one minute after taking to the field.
The Laotians finally received their reward, when Khenkitisack, being served with a well-taken pass from a free-kick at the edge of the opponents' penalty box, beat HAGL keeper Vo Van Hanh from 20 yards.
Speaking about their next game, MCTTPC coach Khammanh Khouphon predicted a difficult time against Persita, saying that the host team looked to be a stronger team.
"However, we will give our best as we did today," he said.
Persita will only need a draw against MCTTPC to go to the next stage of the tournament, which features champions at their respective nations grouped in the Southeast Asia region.
If it loses, goal differences will determine team qualification.
Later in the evening, East Bengal of India, which was invited to the tournament, routed lowly Philippines' Army Football Club 6-0 in their Group D match.
Indian international Bhaicung Bhutia, whose briefly played with English third division club Bury, set a tournament goal record by scoring five goals during the game. The other goal was made by Mahesh Gawli.
East Bengal lost to BEC Tero Sasana 0-1 in its first game.