Vietnamese defender Nguyen Trong Hoang (Number 8) received the match’s first yellow card just after the whistle for tacking Ali Adnan of Iraq.
In the 20th minute, midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai (Number 19) received a tap in from Nguyen Cong Phuong (Number 10) but it went too strong he failed to take a volley.
Four minutes later, under pressure of Vietnam’s attacks, Iraqi defender Ali Faez Atia scored an own goal, opening the score for Vietnam.
However, Iraq equalised the score in the 35th minute through a goal of striker Muhanad Ali.
Cong Phuong restored the lead for the Southeast Asian team in the 42nd with a tap-in after a rebound from Trong Hoang's right-winged shot.
The first half ended after three added minutes with Vietnam leading 2-1.
At the start of the second half, Do Duy Manh (Number 2) received a yellow card for trying to block an Iraqi player.
For the second time, Iraq levelled the score in the 59th minute with a goal by Humam Tariq.
Afterwards, Vietnam made two consecutive player substitutions. Ha Duc Chinh (Number 18) replaced Cong Phuong while Luong Xuan Truong (Number 6) was subbed out for Nguyen Huy Hung (Number 7).
In the 72nd minute, Quang Hai made a shot outside the goal area but it was stopped by the Iraqi goalie.
Vietnam made their last player change 10 minutes later as Doan Van Hau (Number 5) came on for the team and Phan Van Duc (Number 20) was taken off.
Following a fault of Vietnamese defenders, Ali Adnan scored with a free kick in the last official minute of the match, settling a 3-2 lead for Iraq.
Approximately 1,000 Vietnamese fans traveled to Abu Dhabi to cheer for the team in red.
Vietnam are world No 100, 12 steps lower than Iraq. This was the second time the Vietnamese team have played in the tournament compared to eight for the Iraqis.
Vietnam are pooled with Iran, Iraq and Yemen in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
After playing Iraq, the team will face Asian heavyweights Iran on January 12 before wrapping up their group stage journey with a match against Yemen on January 16.
In a recent interview with Tasnim News Agency of Iran, head coach Park Hang-seo said the first goal of Vietnam – the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 champions – is to qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament.