For one, Mahdi Ali started with the same side that took the pitch in the Gulf Cup final and the scoreline was an identical 2-1 in both games.
As in Manama, the UAE took the lead in the first half against Vietnam, but conceded an equaliser in the second before edging ahead once again and protecting their lead in a tense finish.
Most importantly, the UAE managed to prevail over an opponent as resilient as the one they had met for the Gulf Cup title.
Arguably, they had a tougher outing in Hanoi, although the position of Iraq (No 89) and Vietnam (No 134) in the world rankings might suggest otherwise.
Urged on by the noisy home supporters, Vietnam were able to punch well above their weight and only a brilliant performance by the goalkeeper and captain Ali Kasheif allowed the UAE to return home with three points.
Mahdi Ali was pleased, but reckons his team should have closed out the game in the opening quarter of the match.
“We should have finished off the game in the first 15 minutes because we had a few good chances,” the UAE coach said. “We missed them and that allowed Vietnam to bounce back, but I am happy to eventually finish with a win.
“We have had a difficult last month because the players have played a lot of matches in a very short period, both in the Gulf Cup and in the league at home. We also arrived very late in Vietnam because of a change of plans, so the players were tired towards the end.”
The UAE showed few effects of their exhausting schedule at the start though, taking the lead even before some of the fans had settled into their seats.
A clumsy challenge by Michazl Nguyen on Habib Fardan in the sixth minute earned the visitors a penalty and Ahmed Khalil calmly fired home from the spot.
They came close to making it two in the 18th minute when Ali Mabkhout darted past the defence to tap down Abdulaziz Sanqour’s long cross and volley on the run, only to be foiled by the Vietnamese goalkeeper Nguyen Thanh Binh.
Mabkhout was unfortunate to miss out again in the 31st minute when his shot, from almost 20 yards out, bounced off the woodwork.
At the other end, the UAE defence lived dangerously and Kasheif did a great job in keeping out Pham Nguyen Sa’s curling effort in the 40th minute. He was brilliant again in the 45th minute, airborne as he punched Nguyen Van Quyet’s volley over the bar
The hosts came out firing after the break as well, but the UAE could have had a second in the 48th minute as Mabkhout made a good break, but the Al Jazira man’s cross went across the goal with no fellow red shirts in sight.
The UAE had another opportunity in the 57th minute, but Khalil made a mess of it. That miss came back to haunt the UAE when Nguyen Van Quyet equalised with a diving header on the hour mark.
Just seconds earlier, Mahdi Ali had replaced the below-par Omar Abdulrahman with Ismail Al Hammadi. Four minutes later, Sanqour made way for Walid Abbas.
Those two changes served to reinvigorate the UAE and they were back in the lead in the 67th minute when Fardan headed in Amer Abdulrahman’s corner.
Vietnam almost levelled with four minutes remaining when Mohammed Ahmed deflected Huynh Quoc Anh’s shot, but Kasheif dived low to his left to keep the ball out, before the hosts again struck the bar in stoppage time as the UAE were unable to relax until the final whistle.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE