Malaysia issued a statement of intent in their second outing at the 2022 AFF Championship on Saturday, turning on the style in the second half as they claimed a 5-0 win over Laos to move top of Group B.
Meanwhile, having sat out the opening round of games, Singapore began their campaign on a positive note as they recorded a 3-2 victory over Myanmar to move level with Vietnam -- who were not in action on Saturday -- in second place.
With Group B back in action on Tuesday, here's four takeaways from Match Day 2 of Group B at the 2022 AFF Championship.
Par for the course for Malaysia so far
Back-to-back wins to start their campaign is a positive for Malaysia but, without wanting to take too much away from them, they were expected to pick up maximum points in both matches against Myanmar and Laos -- who are likely to finish in the bottom two in the group.
After only beating Myanmar 1-0 in their opener, it was however a bonus that Harimau Malaya were able to record such a handsome triumph over the Laotians especially given goal difference could yet come into play.
Malaysia did take time to break down their opponents and only had one goal to show for their efforts before the hour mark through an Ezequiel Aguero opener.
But the late barrage will be a huge confidence boost given they now face a real test on Tuesday against Group B favourites Vietnam, in what will be a rematch of the 2018 final.
More misery ahead for Laos
For the second consecutive AFF Championship, Laos clearly have one eye on the future given the youthful and inexperienced squad selected by coach Michael Weiss -- with 12 of their 23 players aged 21 or younger, including five 18-year-olds.
The Laotians have no problems unearthing raw individual talent but, collectively, they are still a long way off challenging the powerhouses of Southeast Asia.
Shipping 11 goals in two outings against Vietnam and Malaysia will be a painful, demoralising lesson.
There will be long-term benefits from such exposure but, for now, they could still be in line for more misery in their upcoming matches against Singapore and Myanmar.
Ilhan answers the call but Singapore can improve
With star striker Ikhsan Fandi ruled out of the tournament through injury, there initially were doubts over whether Singapore might have enough firepower to reach the semifinals.
Given the way his younger brother Ilhan Fandi opened their account against Myanmar with the kind of trademark header that Ikhsan would be proud of, the former could just have what it takes to lead the Lions attack and have a breakout campaign like his older sibling did at the 2020 edition.
Nonetheless, if Singapore are to go further than the group stage, they will need to improve in defence after they were completely left themselves exposed for Myanmar's first goal, while the opposition's second strike came off an individual mistake from Ryhan Stewart.
If Singapore can shore up at the back, especially with tougher tests to come, the attack might be able to take care of itself.
No shame in defeat for Myanmar once again
Despite falling to a second straight loss after being defeated by Malaysia in their opening tie, Myanmar can once again hold their heads high after another creditable display.
Given their players were denied constant competitive action at club level over the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic and then the politicial situation in the country, Myanmar have still been able to give a good account of themselves.
Just as they did against Malaysia, Myanmar offered Singapore plenty of resistance even though their opponents were ultimately good enough to claim the win.
And the two goals they were able to net -- through star man Maung Maung Lwin -- would have come as a huge morale lifter ahead of their next game against Laos on Dec. 30, which they will be determined to win.