Despite the gallant effort to claw back from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw at Bukit Jalil National Stadium, the two away goals conceded to Vietnam will weight heavily on the minds of Malaysia's head coach Tan Cheng Hoe.
Vietnam produced a more attacking display that what fans would have been accustomed to in the competition this year and Malaysia struggled to cope with the precision and sharpness of the visitors on the night.
As expected Cheng Hoe started with Amirul Azhan and Irfan Zakaria in place of the suspended Syahmi Safari and injured Aidil Zafuan. There were also surprises in the Vietnam line-up as Park Hang-seo opted to drop Nguyen Anh Duc and Luong Xuan Truong to the bench with Ha Duc Chinh and Nguyen Huy Hung preferred from the start.
It was a physical approach adopted by Vietnam in defence which unsettled the likes of Zaquan Adha and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, which led to the duo unable to influence the game. The visitors also saw their chance with the right hand side of Malaysia's defence, which were starting their first game in the tournament.
Just like it was in the group stage, Vietnam capitalised on Malaysia's inability to position themselves quickly after losing the ball and scored in quick succession to put the home team under heavy pressure.
Safawi Rasid lost the ball in the opponent half and in a flash Phan Van Duc was released on the left hand side. The cross from the Vietnam defender took two deflection off Shahrul Saad and then Nazirul Naim before rolling kindly onto the path of Huy Hung to slam home the opening goal in the 22nd minute.
Three minutes after that, Vietnam found themselves two goals ahead from yet another substandard Malaysia defending as Van Duc sets up Pham Duc Huy to unleash an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box that left Farizal Marlias grasping for thin air.
Malaysia would continue to suffer in the first half each time Vietnam launch those balls over the top but would somehow managed to pull one goal back before half time. Syamer Kutty Abba delivered a sumptuous free kick for Shahrul nod past Dang Van Lam in the 36th minute to make it 1-2.
Malaysia lived dangerously in the opening period of the second half as Vietnam goes for the kill as Cheng Hoe pushed his men further forward in search of the equaliser. Substitute Nguyen Tien Linh was through on goal in the 56th minute but only managed to drag his shot wide despite both Irfan and Farizal slipping.
However in the 60th minute, the stadium erupted when Safawi produced an outstanding free kick at the edge of the box to make it 2-2. Sensing their chance to gain a win, Cheng Hoe threw in Syafiq Ahmad for Amirul and the team went from 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3 formation.
But Vietnam knew they had got what they want and took their foot off the pedal for the rest of the second half. Malaysia tried but just could not find their way past a Vietnamese defence who kept to their shape with Syafiq's free kick in the final minute of the match was being the best effort.
The draw means that Vietnam will go away from this match the happier of the two teams, knowing full well that they will have a noisy home crowd behind them at My Dinh Stadium for them to finish the job.
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