It could not have been a more dramatic finish at the My Dinh Stadium tonight. With time up, including the three added minutes, Vietnam's number one player, Le Cong Vinh, sent the entire nation into a frenzy when he headed in the winner to deliver the prestigous AFF Suzuki Cup 2008 to his country for the very first time in the history of this competition. Vietnam, making only their second final appearance, were awarded a freekick in the added time when Suree Sukha brought down Cong Vinh on the left edge of the box. Skipper Phan Tan Vai Em let loose the freekick which Cong Vinh cooly glanced in to provide Vietnam with a fairy-tale like finish.

Tonight's victory ended the despair Vietnam suffered exactly 10 years ago when they were beaten by Singapore in the 1998 then Tiger Cup final. But today, in front of over 40,000 fans, the hosts, led by Portuguese coach Henrique Calisto, gave Vietnam their first ever major football title. The tears of joy streamed down the faces of the fans, players and officials. Even some journalists wept openly as they celebrated Vietnam's finest hour. The fans stayed back until the very end and their cheers reached a crescendo when AFF President Tengku Tan Sri Dato Seri Ahmad Rithaudeen along with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung.

In what was the best ever final of this series, Vietnam and Thailand battled right from the start. Their players threw everything they had as they pushed forward in search of goals. Vietnam especially did not waste any time and went out in full flight for the early goal. It took them just 10 minutes to take their first crack at goal. Doan Viet Cuong let loose a sizzler which whizzed over the crossbar.

Thailand replied with their first look in the 14th minute but Suchao Nutnum's header fell short. Vietnam continued to pile on the pressure but as it turned out, it was Thailand that broke the deadlock. From a cross, Teerasil Dangda leapt up high and did well to beat goalkeeper Duong Hong Son to the ball, levelling the two-leg aggregate score at 2-2. The fans got behind their team and cheered them on and Vietnam responded by contiuing to attack in droves. Le Tan Tai and Cong Vinh had their chances but were just off the mark.

Both Thailand and Vietnam had their chances but nothing came out of them. With time running out, Thailand brought in super-sub Ronnachai Rangsiyo for Teeratep Winothai, who almost doubled the score in the 59th minute. As the clocked ticked away, it looked almost certain that the game was headed into the dreaded extratime. Then, Cong Vinh, Vietnam's most expensive player, proved his worth with a sensational winner.

AFF Suzuki Cup 2008 Honours;

RUNNERS-UP: Thailand
TOP GOAL SCORER: Teerasil Dangda (Thailand)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Duong Hong Son (Vietnam)


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