The success in Hoang Anh Gia Lai's unsuccessful AFC Champions League quest

Vietnam's Hoang Anh Gia Lai celebrate a famous AFC Champions League result against two-time winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Monday as they came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw. Minh Hoang/Getty Images

With Monday's 1-1 draw with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Hoang Anh Gia Lai's hopes of reaching the knockout round of AFC Champions League came to an end -- with two games still to play.

In any other situation, this would have been a failure.

Yet, the final whistle still brought scenes of celebration from HAGL despite their elimination while coach Kiatisuk Senamuang lavished praised on his charges after the match.

And rightfully so.

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For one, the unfancied Vietnamese outfit -- appearing in Asia's premier club competition for the first time in 17 years -- had not only claimed a point against continental giants and two-time champions Jeonbuk, but they had arguably been the better team.

Having fallen behind after 17 minutes, they showed tremendous resolve to claw their way back into the contest through Nguyen Van Toan's composed finish in the second half.

More significantly, HAGL were never given much of a chance in Group H -- coming up against ACL regulars Jeonbuk, Yokohama F. Marinos and Sydney FC.

And yet with a couple of matches still to play, they have a commendable two points to their names with the prospect for more. Based on what HAGL have shown already, there is no reason why that is beyond them.

Kiatisuk's preference for a back 5-3-2 -- a system almost never seen before with his previous teams -- has been a savvy one given his current side's status as underdogs.

A defence that has conceded just five goals -- commendable when compared to the 12, 15 and 21 that United City, Shandong and Guangzhou have leaked respectively - has been built around the resolute central trio of Kim Dong-su, Nguyen Huu Tuan and Mauricio, while wing-backs Vu Van Thanh and Nguyen Phong Hong Duy also do their bit while also offering plenty going forward.

While one-time wonderkid Nguyen Cong Phuong has never really lived up to his early hype, he has given an excellent account of himself in a more withdrawn central midfield role, alongside the ever-dependable Nguyen Tuan Anh.

Up front, Van Toan's energy means HAGL always have a first line of pressure when the opposition is in possession, but he was also finally rewarded for his endeavour with his goal against Jeonbuk -- a big positive given that perhaps the only question mark over his game has been his scoring output.

Picking up another positive result in their next outing on Thursday against Marinos will be tough but not out of the question, as they proved against Jeonbuk.

But it is perhaps in their final match on Sunday where it is imperative they show the ambition in going all out for a win against Sydney -- a team they took the lead against in their previous encounter before conceding an equaliser that looked borderline offside but was allowed to stand in the absence of VAR.

Kiatisuk deserves credit for way he has gone about setting up his team to deal with a near-impossible hand dealt to them, and the players equally so for the performances they have produced on the pitch.

As HAGL look to prove that Vietnamese clubs belong -- and can compete -- on the biggest continental stage, their ACL 2022 campaign is already shaping up to be a successful one, even if it has been unsuccessful on paper.