AFF Suzuki Cup 2018: Malaysia fight back against Vietnam to stay alive

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Malaysia produced a stirring comeback at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Tuesday to force a 2-2 draw against Vietnam in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 final.

In what proved to be an enthralling encounter, in front of a crowd that had to be more than the official attendance of 88,482, it was Vietnam who drew first blood in the 22nd minute.

Racing onto a probing long ball by Doan Van Hau down the left, Phan Van Duc whipped in a low cross that Nazirul Naim – at full stretch – intercepted but only as far as to Nguyen Huy Hung.

With plenty of the goal to aim for, Huy Hung did enough to power his shot into the back of the net to give the visitors the lead, despite Farizal Marlias getting a hand to it and Shahrul Saad then making a last-ditch attempt to clear right on the line.

Vietnam could not have asked for a better start.

Just three minutes later, Vietnam struck again following more good work by Van Duc as he held up play well in attack before laying the ball off to Pham Duc Huy, who unleashed a ferocious 25-yard effort that took a deflection off Syamer Kutty Abba and dipped beyond Farizal’s despairing dive.

The Golden Dragons could easily have added a third a minute after the half-hour mark when Nguyen Quang Hai’s lovely slide-rule pass send Ha Duc Chinh racing through, but he could only shoot straight at Farizal.

Norshahrul Idlan Talaha being watched closely by Tran Dinh Trong.

But, nine minutes before halftime, the hosts pulled one back when Syamer swung in a beautiful delivery from a freekick on the left, and Shahrul Saad showed the greatest desire to meet it with a towering header into the back of the net.

Vietnam had a glorious chance to reclaim their two-goal cushion in the 57th minute when they again got in behind the opposition defence, but Farizal came to his side’s rescue once more as he denied Nguyen Tien Linh in a one-on-one situation.

Farizal made a couple of fine saves to keep Malaysia in the tie.

And, right on the hour mark, Harimau Malaya equalised after Safawi Rasid won a freekick on the edge of the box and picked himself up to unleash a sumptuous effort into the top corner that had Dang Van Lam beaten all ends up.

Having come from two goals down, it was Malaysia who had the last chance to snatch the win in the third minute of injury-time with another freekick in a promising position.

This time, it was Syafiq Ahmad who lashed his shot through the wall but Van Lam produced a brilliant reaction save to claw the ball to safety, leaving the tie evenly poised but with Vietnam in possession of two potentially crucial away goals ahead of Saturday’s second leg at the My Dint National Stadium in Hanoi.

MALAYSIA: Farizal Marlias, Amirul Azhan Aznan (Syafiq Ahmad 59’), Irfan Zakaria, Shahrul Saad, Nazirul Naim (Adam Nor Azlin 41’), Mohamadou Sumareh, Akram Mahinan, Syamer Kutty Abba, Safawi Rasid, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Akhyar Rashid 71’), Zaquan Adha.

VIETNAM: Dang Van Lam, Do Duy Manh, Tran Dinh Trong, Que Ngoc Hai, Nguyen Trong Hoang, Nguyen Huy Hung, Pham Duc Huy (Nguyen Cong Phuong 76’), Doan Van Hau, Phan Van Duc (Do Hung Dung 86’), Nguyen Quang Hai, Ha Duc Chinh (Nguyen Tien Linh 53’).