Striker Nguyen Quang Hai sent Vietnam into their second final in the history of this regional tournament when he netted the winner in the 75th minute of the second leg AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal battle at the National Stadium tonight.

Quang Hai’s crucial strike sent defending champions Singapore out of the competition and destroyed their dreams of a record fourth title. Vietnam, who were held in Hanoi in the first leg, have set the stage for final showdown against their arch rivals and three-time champions Thailand on Dec 24 and Dec 28. The famous Kallang roar suddenly fell silent as the fans watched in disbelief. But the 50,000 spectators, mainly Singaporean fans, quickly threw their support behind the Lions again in the hope that they would hit the target.

Singapore, who were in control for the better half of the game, tried desperately but the all important goal never came. They in fact, almost equalised on at least two occasions but was stopped by goalkeeper Duong Hong Son, who along with Quang Hai were the heroes of the Vietnam team tonight.

The victory for Vietnam today came at a high price as defender Doan Viet Cuong was given the sack after picking up a second booking in injury time. An overzealous attack on Singapore’s Daniel Bennett led to his exit and more importantly a place in the final. For Vietnam, the win may finally heal the wounds of the 1998 final when Singapore defeated them 1-0. That was Singapore’s first-ever title and also the last time Vietnam appeared in the final.


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