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Bali United shine brightest in Indonesia-Malaysia double header but Viettel lead the way in AFC Cup ASEAN Zone

Bali United got their AFC Cup 2022 off to a flying start with a 2-0 triumph over Kedah Darul Aman in one of two Indonesia-Malaysia clashes on Friday. Asian Football Confederation

After a two-year hiatus, the AFC Cup returned to the ASEAN Zone on Friday evening and there was immediately plenty of action and drama.

In a shortened group stage held in centralised venues, the stakes are higher with teams only having three -- rather than the usual six games -- to do enough to advance to the knockout round.

- Why AFC Cup means so much to ASEAN after two-year hiatus

We recap all the action on the opening day and take a deeper look at what the results mean heading into Monday's second round of games.

Bali claim bragging rights over Kedah in clash of rivals

Indonesia and Malaysia are bitter rivals on the international stage, and there will always be an extra edge even in matches involving their respective teams at club level.

On Friday, it was Bali United who claimed the bragging rights for Indonesia with a 2-0 triumph over Kedah Darul Aman in Group G.

Bali are no strangers to the competition having featured in two of the last three editions (also qualifying for last year's tournament which was ultimately cancelled in the ASEAN Zone), while Kedah are competing in the AFC Cup for the first time since 2009.

The victory immediately boosts Bali's hopes of advancing to the zonal semifinals, while Group G's other tie saw Cambodian debutants Visakha pull off a huge upset with a 2-1 win over Kaya FC-Iloilo, who were only last season competing in the top-tier AFC Champions League.

With Bali and Visakha locking horns on Monday, the victors of that tie will automatically be in pole position to progress ahead of the final round.

PSM, KL City set the stage of tense and tight Group H

The situation in Group H is already complicated given there are only three clubs competing, following the withdrawal of Myanmar's Shan United and Hantharwady United.

It means that teams only have two games to secure a knockout-round berth, and a 0-0 draw in another Indonesia-Malaysia clash on Friday would not have been ideal for both PSM Makassar and Kuala Lumpur City.

This now means that Singapore's Tampines Rovers -- who find themselves a step down after a foray in the 2021 AFC Champions League -- have the perfect chance to take control of the group when they open their campaign on Monday against PSM.

It certainly is far from straightforward for the Stags with all three sides looking evenly matched on paper, but they will at least be entering the game with a clean slate compared to their opponents.

Viettel issue statement of intent in Group I

Vietnam's Viettel are another team back in the second tier of Asian club competition after a tough time against the big boys of the continent in the ACL last season, but it looks as though they might relish the role of heavyweights rather than underdogs this time around.

Against Group I minnows Young Elephants, Viettel showed no mercy after an early scare of conceding in the 6th minute to record an emphatic 5-1 win.

Pedro Paulo, who did find the net in Asia's premier club competition last term, was the hero for the V.League 1 outfit with a hat-trick, while Nham Manh Dung -- fresh from his gold-medal winning exploits at the Southeast Asian Games for Vietnam's U-23 side -- also caught the eye with a cameo appearance.

With their experience and firepower, Viettel already look favourites to win Group I -- and they could just be the team to beat in all of the ASEAN Zone.

Still, they could face stern competition from Hougang United, who were also opening-day victors as they beat Phnom Penh Crown 4-3, and with both teams only set to face off in the final game on Thursday.