Indonesia were gifted an 88th-minute equaliser as they held Group A hosts Vietnam to a 2-2 draw in the AFF Suzuki Cup on Saturday evening.
Although Que Ngoc Hai had fired the Vietnamese ahead after 11 minutes, Indonesia equalised three minutes after the half-hour mark when Zulham Zamrun capitalised on a defensive error to score.
A stunning strike by Le Cong Vinh in the 68th minute then looked to have won the game for the hosts, but with six minutes remaining, a horrendous error from goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh saw him fumble Samsul Arif’s low shot into his own goal, which was enough to hand Garuda a share of the spoils.
Having watched Philippines open Group A earlier in the day with a dominant 4-1 triumph over Laos, both sides knew a win would be extremely vital in their bid to qualify for the semi-finals.
It was Vietnam who looked the more threatening early on as Pham Thanh Luong sent a 25-yard drive wide in the sixth minute, before Nguyen Hai Anh forced his way into the box three minutes later and fired away a powerful effort that Kurnia Meiga Hermansyah did brilliantly to push wide.
Still, all that did was delay the inevitable as the deadlock was broken from the resultant corner when Sergio van Dijk met Thanh Luong’s corner with a poor defensive header straight to Ngoc Hai, who improvised well to send a deft volley looping over Meiga and into the back of the net.
Having edged ahead, Toshiya Miura’s charges began to gain a stranglehold on proceedings but they then undid all their good work by allowing their opponents to get back in the contest.
Despite being under no apparent pressure, Dinh Tien Thanh nervously nodded a harmless cross backwards into the path of Zulham, who steadied himself before clinically rifling a first-time shot into the bottom corner.
But rather than be deterred by Indonesia pulling level, the hosts continued to show plenty of energy and enterprise and continued to enjoy the dominant share of possession after the break.
They came excruciatingly close to reclaiming the lead five minutes into the second half when Nguyen Hai Anh latched onto Vu Minh Tuan’s nod-down and blasted a shot towards goal, only for Meiga to produce a fine save by tipping it onto the post.
Ngoc Hai was next to threaten the Indonesians’ goal in the 51st minute when he met another dangerous corner by Thanh Luong with a glancing header that crept just wide, before Minh Tuan sent a fierce drive off target eight minutes later.
Given how dominant their opponents were looking, it seemed as though Indonesia’s best chance of grabbing a goal was going to be through a set-piece.
That nearly transpired in the 67th minute when Achmad Jufriyanto was left unmarked inside the area and was picked out by Zulham’s corner, but the Persib Bandung centre-back spurned the opportunity by heading over.
Just a minute later, the Vietnamese made them pay for that miss as substitute Cong Vinh made an impact with a stunning goal – pouncing on Zulkifli Syukur’s clearance header and sending an unstoppable half-volley into the top corner.
Having fallen behind once more, it was now Garuda’s turn to show more initiative in the attacking third and Van Dijk almost raced through in the 78th minute to run onto Firman Utina’s over-the-top ball, until Nguyen Manh raced off his line and did well to deny him in a one-on-one situation.
Nonetheless, that was not to be the last time the Song Lam Nghe An custodian would feature prominently in the match, and unfortunately for him, it was his dreadful error that ultimately cost his side maximum points.
Receiving possession down the right with six minutes left to go, Samsul fired away a hopeful shot that looked far from threatening, yet Nguyen Manh somehow let it slip through his legs and over the line.
Still, Vietnam did create a couple more chances in the closing stages that should have seen them snatch back the lead.
First, Minh Tuan found himself in acres of space in the 88th minute after Cong Vinh had threaded a lovely pass through to him but Meiga raced off his line and denied him with an excellent save, before Van Quyet was picked out unmarked inside the box by Thanh Luong’s inch-perfect cross in injury-time yet inexplicably headed over from six yards.
In the end, the Vietnamese had only themselves to blame as they were denied victory in their opening match by the plucky Garuda.
Vietnam: Tran Nguyen Manh, Que Ngoc Hai (Nguyen Thanh Hien 87’), Dinh Tien Thanh, Le Phuoc Tu, Nguyen Xuan Thanh (Nguyen Minh Tung 81’), Nguyen Huy Hung, Ngo Hoang Thinh, Vu Minh Tuan, Nguyen Van Quyet, Pham Thanh Luong, Nguyen Hai Anh (Le Cong Vinh 55’).
Indonesia: Kurnia Meiga Hermansyah, Zulkifli Syukur, Muhammad Roby, Achmad Jufriyanto, Rizky Pora, Raphael Maitimo, Manahati Lestusen (Firman Utina 76’), Muhammad Ridwan, Boaz Solossa (Samsul Arif 61’), Zulham Zamrun (Imanuel Wanggai 89’), Sergio van Dijk.