Vietnam squandered a two-goal lead to play out a 2-2 draw with Malaysia in the 2018 AFF Cup final first leg at Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on December 11.
Park Hang-seo's side cruised to a two-goal advantage after 25 minutes, but Mohd Saad and Safawi scored in either half of the match to spoil Vietnam's fabulous party away.
Despite missing out on a victory, by scoring twice on Malaysia's home field, the "Golden Stars" are currently on the upper hand against the ""Harimau Malaya" ahead of the return leg at Hanoi's My Dinh Stadium this weekend thanks to the rule of away goals.
Roared on by a crowd of more than 80,000, Malaysia began the game strongly and produced the first finish of the match after 16 minutes, with Zaquan Adha heading wide from a left-wing cross by Kutty Abba.
Malaysia were looking lively in the early stages, but it was Vietnam who took the lead once again proving how clinical they are in front of the goal.
In the 22nd minute, Van Hau chipped a delightful pass to Van Duc in the left wing. The Nghe An-born forward delivered a cross into the penalty box which was unfourtunately blocked by a Malaysian defender, but midfielder Huy Hung found the back of the net on the rebound to put Vietnam ahead 1-0.
To everyone's surprise, the guests only needed another three minutes to double their advantage, with Van Duc returning the ball to Duc Huy who fired an eye-catching long-range strike to beat goalkeeper Mohd Farizal Marlias.
The following minutes saw Malaysia strengthen pressure seeking to narrow the score. Tan Cheng Hoe's side made good use of their rare opportunities to pull a goal back, as Mohd Saad successfully converted Kutty Abba's 36th-minute freekick with a powerful header from close range.
Vietnam enjoyed two clear-cut chances to create a safe gap before half time, as Quang Hai assisted Duc Chinh twice, but the SHB Da Nang forward failed to beat the Malaysian keeper in face-to-face situations.
The second half took place in the same manner as in the first 45 minutes, with Malaysia still having much of the ball but Vietnam possessing more opportunities to score. Notably in the 58th minute, substitute Tien Linh, who replaced Duc Chinh, produced a sprint and burst into the penalty area; however, his final shot was unexpectedly stopped by goalie Marlias.
The waste of opportunities forced Park's side to pay deerly, as Safawi curled an eye-catching left-footed freekick to equalise the score for the home side on the hour mark.
With time running out, Vietnam put up pressure on the Malaysian field, and came close to restoring their advantage, with Van Duc seeing his effort blocked by a Malaysian defender and Quang Hai shooting wide from a narrow angle.
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.
There are no doubts that the 2-2 draw left deep regrets among both the Vietnamese players and fans, especially when the "Golden Stars" had gone two goals in front. However, scoring twice away has gifted Park's side an upper hand ahead of the return fixture, as they will only need to held the "Harimau Malaya" to a 0-0 or 1-1 tie at Hanoi's My Dinh Stadium on Dec 15 to realise the decade-long dream of lifting the AFF Cup trophy.
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