The top two qualifying places in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup had been decided in the opening two rounds with the game between Iraq and Iran to decide which team would top the group.
However at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain Vietnam and Yemen had everything to play for. The winner would still have a chance of getting through to the knockout stages as one of the four best third placed teams. A draw would probably see both teams eliminated.
As it was, two set pieces kept Vietnam in the tournament with a 2-0 win. A beautifully struck free kick by Nguyen Quang Hai (38’) gave them the lead with Que Ngoc Hai’s penalty sealing the win (64’).
The game started with both sides struggling to create any openings and it wasn’t until the 30th minute that the first attempt was made with Phan Van Duc shooting tamely wide of the near post from outside the area. One minute later and he had another go and this time his cross-shot was pushed away for a corner by Salem Al-Harsh.
Seven minutes before half time Mudir Al-Radaei was shielding the ball while clearly pulling on his opponent's shirt. Yemen argued vociferously with the decision with Wahid Al-Khyat finishing up in Oman referee Ahmed Al-Khaf’s notebook. Quang Hai stepped up and placed a wonderful left footed free kick over the wall and into the net to further anger the Yemenis (1-0).
The goal spurred on Vietnam with Yemen finding their clever ball skills and movement hard to contain. Luong Xuan Truong tried his luck from outside the area while Van Duc darted inside only to lose control as he set up a shooting chance for himself.
Vietnam came close to grabbing a second five minutes into the second half with Van Duc stretching to reach Nguyen Cong Phuong’s cross from the right.
In the 51st minute Yemen had only their third attempt on target of the whole tournament when their captain Ala Al-Sasi met a corner with his head but it went directly to Dang Van Lam in goal.
It had been a fast paced game throughout but both sides seemed to lift themselves even further and Cong Phuong looked as though his right footed effort from well inside the area would hit the target until a last ditch effort was made to put in a block.
A second clear cut opportunity for Yemen came in the 57th minute when Ahmed Al-Sarori was given plenty of room on the right but he ended up dragging his shot wide of the far post.
Vietnam were then awarded a dubious penalty. Substitute Abdulaziz Al-Gumaei clearly pulled back Van Duc and was rightfully booked but the initial contact appeared to be outside the area. Captain Que Ngoc Hai coolly delayed his kick until Al-Harsh had committed and then sent the ball in the opposite corner (2-0).
With a two goal advantage Vietnam were only one goal away of ensuring that they qualified as one of the best third ranked teams but Yemen weren’t going out without a fight. In the 73rd minute Al-Sarori played a delightful chip over Van Lam but the effort went narrowly over the crossbar then Al-Sasi then had another goal bound attempt blocked.
Yemen bow out and despite three losses and being unable to hit the back of the net they will have been delighted to have been able to be part of the finals of the Asian Cup for the first time.
Vietnam must wait to see if they qualify as one of the best third placed teams. They currently sit in third spot of those able to qualify with Oman and Lebanon best placed to beat them to one of the places in the round of 16.