Hanoi, June 29: A first-half hat trick by striker Le Cong Vinh helped Vietnam to a 6-0 thrashing of Macau while Malaysia conceded a potentially important late goal in a 2-1 win over Taiwan as Asian World Cup qualifying got underway Wednesday.
Palestine beat Afghanistan 2-0 and the Philippines snatched a 1-1 away draw at Sri Lanka in other first-leg games as Asia's smaller football nations kicked off the worldwide qualifying odyssey, three years out from the World Cup finals in Brazil.
In Wednesday's other games, Cambodia won 4-2 at home against neighbors Laos, Nepal struggled past lowly-ranked East Timor 2-1, Bangladesh overpowered Pakistan 3-0 and Mongolia won 1-0 over Myanmar.
In Hanoi, Vinh opened the scoring for the hosts in the 19th minute by heading in a free kick by midfielder Phan Trong Hoang from close range. Vinh found the net again 17 minutes later also from a pass from Hoang.
The striker from T&T Hanoi completed his hat trick from the penalty spot four minutes from the break.
Thanh Luong Pham extended the lead for Vietnam with a close range kick 17 minutes after the break. Substitute striker Nguyen Ngoc Thanh added a goal from a header five minutes later and striker Nguyen Van Quyet sealed the victory for Vietnam one minute from time.
It was the first match for German coach Falko Gotz since he signed the two-year contract with Vietnam earlier this month.
Barring a remarkable Macau comeback when it hosts Sunday's second leg, Vietnam will progress to a second-round meeting with Qatar.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia won but Taiwan will be encouraged by the away goal going into the return leg.
Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim scored in the 28th minute when he pounced on a loose ball and curled in a delightful shot from the right side of the box.
Safiq set up the second goal in the 54th minute, delivering a corner for Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak to outjump two defenders and nod the ball home.
However a lapse in concentration saw Taiwan midfielder Chen Po-liang shoot home from close range with 14 minutes left on the clock.
Malaysia, the current Southeast Asian champion, is trying to reach the second round of qualifying for the first time, having fallen at the first hurdle 10 times since its inaugural campaign in 1974.
Palestine's football team normally attracts its share of sympathy for the security and logistical difficulties it faces, but on Wednesday came up against an opponent with even more severe problems in Afghanistan.
The game was nominally the home leg for the Afghans but had to be played in Tajikistan due to the security situation in Afghanistan.
Murad Alyan opened the scoring for Palestine in the 28th minute and Ismail Alamour got the second in the closing stages of the second half.
Palestine will host the second leg on Sunday, confident of progressing to a second-round meeting with Thailand. Palestine played Thailand in Olympic qualifying earlier this year, with Thailand winning in a penalty shootout after two legs but subsequently being disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.
The Philippines will also fancy their chances of reaching the second round after a 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka.
Chathura Gunarathna beat Fulham reserve goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to put Sri Lanka ahead in the 43rd minute, but substitute Nate Burkey brought the Philippines level in the 50th minute.
The result left the Philippines well placed to progress to a second-round match against Kuwait.
Bangladesh scored in the opening minute to set up the victory over Pakistan.
Host Bangladesh got the ideal start through Zahid Hasan Emily's goal, and further strikes by Mohamed Zahid Hosain in the 22nd minute and Rethul Karim in the 56th completed the scoring.
Pakistan will attempt to make up the big deficit when it hosts the second leg, with the eventual winner to meet Lebanon in the second round.
Cambodia recovered from conceding an early goal to win 4-2 at home against neighboring Laos.
Laos took a ninth-minute lead through teenage midfielder Manolom Phomsouvanh but that advantage was overturned in a hectic period that saw four goals scored between the 51st and 67th minutes.
Khuon Laboravy equalized for Cambodia and substitute Samel Nasa then put the hosts ahead. Phomsouvanh got his second to equalize for Laos, but striker Kouch Sokumpheak put Cambodia back in front soon after.
Nasa got his second in the 88th minute to provide a handy two-goal buffer for Cambodia before Sunday's return leg. The winner will play China in the second qualifying round.
Ten-man Nepal struggled past lowly-ranked East Timor 2-1, with the winner to face Jordan in round two.
Nepal, coached by former Tottenham, Rangers and Chelsea defender Graham Roberts, went down to ten men when Bharat Khawas received two yellow cards inside the first ten minutes of the second half.
Anil Gurung had put Nepal in front in the 14th minute but East Timor—which is the lowest-ranked team in Asian qualifying at 202 in the world—surprisingly drew level through Juvito da Silva in the 47th minute.
The experienced Ju Manu Rai restored Nepal's lead in the 71st.
Mongolia won 1-0 at home against Myanmar, leaving both teams with hope of progressing to face Oman.
Tsend-Ayush Khurelbataar scored the sole goal in the 48th minute.