Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia showed tremendous resilience to come from two goals down to force a 2-2 draw with Vietnam in the 2018 AFF Cup final first leg at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday.
Vietnam looked to be cruising to a commanding victory after taking a 2-0 lead after just 25 minutes through Nguyen Huy Hung and Pham Duc Huy but Shahrul Saad pulled one back in the 36th before Safawi Rasid completed the comeback with a stunning free-kick in the 60th.
Still, Vietnam will be confident of completing the job in Saturday's return leg in Hanoi as despite Malaysia shading possession, Park Hang-seo's men had the clearer chances at goal.
The match kicked off against a backdrop of black and yellow as, with all 80,000 tickets sold, Malaysia had their fans willing them on.
Vietnam, however, were far from daunted and started confidently as they took the game to Malaysia.
Their confidence paid off in the 22nd minute as, following a counter-attack, Nguyen Huy Hung scored with a right-footed shot from the centre of the box past Malaysia goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.
It was pure joy for Vietnam three minutes later as Pham Duc Huy found the back of the net with a left-footed shot from 30 yards out into the bottom right corner.
The fans were stunned into silence but to their credit, Malaysia refused to give up and poured forward in search of a goal.
Their persistence paid off in the 36th minute as Shahrul rose high to head home a free-kick from Syamer Kutty Abba.
The crowd roared and as the teams trooped off for the break, Tan Cheng Hoe's Malaysia were dreaming of a come back.
That became a reality in the 60th minute when Safawi stepped up to take a free-kick from just outside the Vietnam penalty box.
Facing him was a six-man wall but Safawi was up to the challenge as he curled in his shot with a left-footed effort past the wall and Vietnam goalkeeper Dang Van Lam.
There was to be no further goals, making the return leg a highly anticipated affair which Vietnam will be confident of winning. Malaysia, however, won't be lacking in confidence either.