Vietnam stun Qatar in dramatic AFC U-23 Championship semifinal

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Scenes at the final whistle after Vietnam win the penalty shootout. (AFC.com)
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Fans hit the streets in Hanoi to celebrate the semifinal win. (@soccervietnam)
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There was unconfined joy in Hanoi following the win over Qatar. (@soccervietnam)
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There was a party atmosphere after Vu Van Thanh scored the winning spot-kick. (@soccervietnam)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Vietnam stun Qatar in dramatic AFC U-23 Championship semifinal

There were wild celebrations on the streets of Hanoi after Vietnam booked a place in the final of the AFC U-23 Championship with a thrilling penalty shootout win over Qatar.

Goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung was the hero for Vietnam, saving two penalties as the Southeast Asian side defeated much-fancied Qatar 4-3 on spot-kicks at the Kunshan Sports Center Stadium in China.

Tien Dung repelled efforts from Qatari duo Ahmad Moein and Sultan Al-Brake to seal the victory, one which continues Vietnam’s fairytale journey in the competition under the wily guidance of head coach Park Hang-seo, and now sets up a title showdown against either Korea Republic or Uzbekistan on Saturday.

If Tien Dung was the hero in the shootout, then Nguyen Quang Hai was the hero in normal. He scored twice to level the match, once on 69 minutes and again on 88 minutes — just 60 seconds after Qatar had gone 2-1 in front and seemingly booked their place in the final. Vietnam just refused to lie down and their indomitable spirit carried them through extra-time and then penalties.

They celebrated wildly after Vu Van Thanh rammed home the winning spot-kick while Qatar were crestfallen after bowing out at the semifinal stage for the second successive competition.

Thousands of Vietnam watched the game on a big screen at the Hang Day Stadium while thousands more poured onto the streets of Hanoic to celebrate one of the biggest days in the country's sporting history.
 


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 10 min 47 sec ago
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparking form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.