HANOI - Vietnam scored a last gasp second-leg equaliser for a 1-1 draw with Thailand to clinch the Southeast Asian championship for the first time on Sunday. With the match tied 2-2 on aggregate and seconds away from extra time, the dangerous Le Cong Vinh leapt high above the Thai defence to head home Nguyen Minh Phuong's free kick and spark ecstatic scenes across Vietnam. Tens of thousands of people poured onto the gridlocked streets of Hanoi, waving flags, sounding horns and beating together pots and pans in wild celebration of the country's first international title. "I'm so happy and we have a huge, huge party now," Vietnam's Portuguese coach Henrique Calisto told Reuters while mobbed by raucous fans. "I'm not surprised, we gave everything we had. We fought hard and deserved this win." Thailand, upset 2-1 in the first leg, had most of the chances and went ahead after 21 minutes when Teerasil Dangda beat goalkeeper Duong Hong Son to head Sutee Suksomkit's free kick into the net. Defender Suree Sukha had his header well saved close to halftime and Hong Son was again called into action on 59 minutes when he pushed away Teerathep Winothai's low drive from outside the area. Thailand paid dearly for their misfiring after conceding a disputed free kick deep into stoppage time when Vinh collapsed at the feet of Suree with no apparent contact. Vinh buried Thailand's hopes of a fourth title when he flicked the ball into the top corner to stun the visitors and trigger mass revelry at a sellout My Dinh Stadium. Thailand's English coach Peter Reid felt luck was not on his side. "We were the best team but that's how it goes in football," Reid told Reuters. "The players were brilliant in this tournament, I'm delighted with them. A bad refereeing decision in the last leg has cost us the title, but that's life, I can't complain."
28 December 2008
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