By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Having fallen to a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their opening qualifier last month, Harimau Malaya desperately needed a victory to keep alive their hopes of booking a trip to Australia for the continent's most-prestigious tournament.
But they got off to the worst possible start on Friday as they fell behind in the 13th minute to a brilliant effort from Ayman Al Hagri, who picked up the ball down the left and effortlessly skipped past both Mahalli Jasuli and Azamuddin Akil before unleashing a curling strike that had Khairul Fahmi beaten all ends up.
However, the hosts did pull level three minutes before the half-hour mark when Mahalli went on a bursting run down the right and played in a cross that caused havoc inside the Yemen box; the ball eventually falling to the unmarked Azamuddin, who made no mistake in tapping in at the far post.
Still, it was beginning to look as though Malaysia were not going to be able to find the breakthrough, especially after star striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha missed a gilt-edged chance 13 minutes from time.
Nonetheless, they were not to be denied as two minutes later, Norshahrul made amends for his miss by latching onto a long ball from Mahalli and skipping inside his man, before whipping in a pinpoint left-footed cross for Khyril Muhymeen Zambri to head home from close range.
There was no such luck for Thailand, who eliminated Malaysia in the semi-finals of last year's AFF Suzuki Cup, as they fell to a 5-2 defeat Lebanon at the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Group B.
Six minutes in, Hassan Chaito capitalised on the inexperience of War Elephants' centre-back Apiwat Ngaolahmin by taking the ball past him before slotting through the legs of Sivaruck Tedsungnoen to open the scoring.
Chaito then doubled Lebanon's advantage in similar fashion in the 22nd minute as he picked up possession and skipped past Apiwat before emphatically finishing into the top corner, and right on the hour mark, Mohamad Haidar made it 3-0 when he broke down the left and fired in a shot that took a deflection and beat Sivaruck at his near post.
The Thailand goalkeeper saved his side further damage six minutes before the break when he kept out a penalty from Hassan Maatouk, and four minutes after halftime, a comeback was on the cards when Teerasil Dangda unleashed a shot from the edge of the area that sailed into the top corner, despite the Muangthong United man slipping as he pulled the trigger.
However, their hopes of rescuing anything from the game were ended in the 70th minute when Chaito threaded a lovely through-pass to Maatouk, who skipped past the onrushing Sivaruck and held off Theerathon Bunmathan's challenge before slotting into the unguarded net.
Thailand did manage another consolation effort four minutes from time when 19-year-old substitute Thitipan Puangchan broke free down the left and drilled a shot into bottom corner, but it proved to be too little too late for the visitors, and their opponents went on to have the final say in injury-time when Abbas Atwi pounced on a defensive mix-up to race through and lash a powerful strike into the roof of the net.
Finally, Vietnam fell to a shock 1-0 defeat to Hong Kong at the Mong Kok Stadium after Chan Wai Ho's 87th-minute header maintained his side's unbeaten start to their qualifying campaign, and left their opponents with no points from their opening two matches.
Singapore were originally meant to play Oman at the Jalan Besar Stadium but that Group A clash has since been postponed to August 14, while Indonesia are in action on Saturday when they host Saudi Arabia at the Gelora Bung Karno in Group C.
Friday's 2015 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying Results (involving ASEAN sides)
Lebanon 5-2 Thailand
Malaysia 2-1 Yemen
Hong Kong 1-0 Vietnam