KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, REUTERS) - Vietnam have one foot in the AFF Suzuki Cup final after goals by Vo Huy Toan and Nguyen Van Quyet secured the 2008 champions a 2-1 away win over Malaysia in the first leg of their semi-final on Sunday.
The home side were ahead with a Safiq Rahim penalty but Huy Toan levelled in the 32nd minute before Van Quyet fired home the winner on the hour to reward a fine performance at a rain-soaked Shah Alam Stadium.
With the away goals rule in effect, Malaysia will need to score at least twice in the return match in Hanoi on Thursday to advance to the final.
Malaysia had beaten Vietnam 2-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals in 2010 en route to winning the title and a repeat of that result looked to be on the cards when Safiq sent goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh the wrong way from the spot in the 14th minute after Nguyen Huy Hung had handled in his box.
But the pace of the Vietnamese attack caused problems all evening for a Malaysia defence missing the suspended Shukor Adan, and the visitors got back on level terms just after the half-hour when Van Quyet's low drive was parried by Malaysia goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat to an unmarked Huy Toan, who fired the ball home.
Vietnam continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack in the second half and they notched a crucial second goal in the 60th minute after Van Quyet received the ball on the right of the Malaysian box from Mac Hong Quan and cut inside defender Zubir Azmi before bending the ball past Khairul Fahmi.
Vietnam nearly added a third when Huy Tuan just failed to make contact with Van Quyet's cross, but Malaysia could have levelled right at the end as substitute Indra Putra Mahayuddin headed wide in stoppage time.
"I must congratulate my players for not panicking after conceding the goal although I felt that they would play better in the second half," Vietnam's Japanese coach Toshiya Miura told reporters.
Malaysian coach Dollah Salleh was at a loss to explain the defeat. "I don't know what happened to the players. They were not disciplined tonight, especially our backline," he said.
The match was marred by fan trouble in the closing stages, with Malaysian media reporting that both sets of supporters were involved in violent clashes that were halted by authorities. Plastic bottles were also allegedly thrown by the home fans at their Vietnamese counterparts.
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin condemned the violence in a Facebook post in Malay.
According to a translation on The Malaysian Insider website, he wrote: "These violent fans do not represent Malaysia. My sincere apologies on behalf of Malaysia for the actions of these small number of irresponsible thugs. No excuse for such violence. Especially against guests in our country. Is this how we treat guests? It doesn't matter whether they are visitors or workers here, this is not Malaysian culture.
"These irresponsible people don't think what would happen to our fans when we play in Hanoi, Vietnam, for the second leg."
In the other semi-final first leg, Philippines and Thailand played out a goalless draw in the other semi-final first leg in Manila on Saturday.