By Alastair Himmer
HANOI, July 8 (Reuters) - Co-hosts Vietnam stunned United Arab Emirates 2-0 with two quick-fire second-half strikes in their Asian Cup Group B opener on Sunday.
Goals from Huynh Quang Thanh and Le Cong Vinh sparked wild celebrations for Vietnam, who are making their first appearance in the finals since a team from South Vietnam competed in the 1960 finals and lost all three matches to hosts South Korea, Israel and Taiwan.
“We were a little lucky but we deserved to win,” Vietnam coach coach Alfred Riedl told Reuters. “This has already caused a sensation but it’s only one win.”
The Austrian added: “I can’t go around shouting about this too much. We are not a big team but we never go out to lose a game.”
Striker Faisal Khalil should have put UAE ahead in the 25th minute but the Didier Drogba lookalike was denied by a fingertip save from goalkeeper Duong Hong Son.
However, the home side took a surprise lead in the 63rd minute when defender Thanh volleyed home after an embarrassing mix-up in the UAE defence.
Vinh doubled Vietnam’s advantage 10 minutes later, springing the offside trap to finish with a delightful lob from the edge of the area to finish off the Gulf Cup holders.
Japan begin their quest for a third consecutive Asian Cup title against Qatar in Hanoi on Monday in the second Group B match.
This year’s tournament kicked off on Saturday and is being staged jointly by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The final takes place in Jakarta on July 29.
Additional reporting by Martin Petty