A strike from Vietnam's Lê Van Xuân consigned Taiwan to a 1-0 defeat in their opening 2022 AFC Asian Cup qualifying match in Kyrgyzstan Wednesday.
Taiwan still has a chance to make the finals with a favorable result in their remaining group fixture against Myanmar on Saturday.
Saturday's game will take place at Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek, which is also playing host to the rest of Group I's matches.
Taiwan was originally slated to host, but was replaced when its strict COVID-19 quarantine protocols led some of the participating teams to worry they would not have enough practice time before their matches, according to the Chinese Taipei Football Association.
Taiwan went into Wednesday's match against the 2018 tournament's runners-up as underdogs, and set out to play a defensive game from the off.
A number of key saves from Li Guan-pei (???) left Vietnam's powerful frontline frustrated, and Taiwan kept the scores level in the first half.
Vietnam continued to see most of the ball after the second half kicked off, eventually breaking down Taiwan's defensive resolve with less than ten minutes left on the clock.
Amid wave after wave of attacks, Vietnam midfielder Nguyen Hai Long managed to thread a long pass through a crowded penalty area and find the defender Lê.
Lê then curled a perfectly calculated strike on 82 minutes past Taiwan goalkeeper Li and into the top left-hand corner of the net to make it 1-0.
Despite attempts to regain possession and move up the pitch for the equalizer, Taiwan were held off as Vietnam saw out the final minutes of the match to go top of Group I.
After the match, Vietnam's Lê said the game had been tough but that they had achieved a good result.
"I'm really happy because I scored today and this is the first time I scored for the U23s. I hope this will be a big dynamic for me and my teammates for the next game," Lê said.
A total of 39 teams spread out across 11 groups are competing for 15 slots at the 2022 AFC U23 Asian Cup from June 1-22, with tournament hosts Uzbekistan qualifying automatically to round out the 16-team lineup.
The 11 group winners and the four best runners-up will qualify for the tournament, which is in its fifth edition after starting in 2013.
Defending champions South Korea will be looking to be the first team to win back-to-back titles, with Taiwan hoping to make a first appearance in the finals.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel