Malaysia and Vietnam will go into Saturday’s AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Final second leg all square following an exciting 2-2 draw in their first meeting at a packed Bukit Jalil Stadium on Tuesday night.
The hosts had the first effort on goal just after the quarter-hour mark when Syamer Kutty broke free on the left to find captain Zaquan Adha in the area, but the forward’s leaping header went wide of Dang Van Lam’s righthand post.
But it was the visitors who scored the crucial opener on 22 minutes.
Phan Van Duc’s surging run down the left flank resulted in a leftwing cross that Malaysia’s Nazirul Naim could only poke clear as far as the onrushing Nguyen Huy Hung, who drove a shot into the unprotected net despite the best attempts of the late-coming defender on the line.
And, with Malaysia still reeling from going a goal down, Vietnam doubled their lead two minutes later in spectacular fashion.
Van Duc won the ball on the edge of the area before teeing up Pham Duc Huy who, despite falling as he unleashed his shot, saw his stunning long-range effort sail past the outstretched arms of Farizal Marlias into the bottom right hand corner.
It could have been 3-0 on the half-hour mark, when Ha Duc Chinh tore clear into the area, but this time Farizal came out on top after coming out to close down the angle.
And the missed opportunity proved vital, as the home side halved the deficit just six minutes later as Shahrul Saad leapt to head home Syamer’s wicked inswinging freekick from wide on the left, to restore the cacophonous noise amongst the Harimau Malaya support ahead of half-time.
Vietnam went close to restoring their two goal advantage 12 minutes after the restart as substitute Nguyen Tien Linh was sent clear by Nguyen Quang Hai, but Farizal again won the duel.
The away sides prolificacy was punished almost immediately, too, as Safawi Rasid was fouled to the right of the area at the other end of the field by Doan Van Hau, and the same player stepped up himself to shape a superb freekick around the Vietnam wall and into the opposite corner past Van Lam.
With their lead extinguished and the scores level at 2-2, Van Duc and Quang Hai saw efforts go narrowly wide in a vain attempt to go back in front.
Safawi had a chance to repeat his magic deep into stoppage time with a free-kick from distance, but this time Van Lam’s fine save, flying to his right, kept the ball out and ensured the match would finish as a stalemate.
The identity of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 champions will now have to wait until December 15 and the decisive clash between the pair at Hanoi’s My Dinh National Stadium.