HO CHI MINH CITY - A moment of inspiration from Xu Yuan saw China get their AFC Women's Asian Cup trophy defence off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over hosts Vietnam at Thong Nat Stadium on Wednesday.
Xu produced the only moment of genuine quality 15 minutes before half-time to settle a dour Group A game in favour of the defending champions, who had striker Han Duan sent off late on.
A low-key opening 20 minutes saw chances at a premium for both sides.
Bui Thi Tuyet Mai brought a boisterous home crowd to their feet when the forward picked up a diagonal ball on the left corner of the area and cut inside but her shot was always going wide of the far post.
Han then had a sight of goal for China as she got on the end of a lofted ball into the box after a defensive mix-up, but keeper Dang Thi Kieu Trinh stood up well to deny the striker from an acute angle.
China threatened again with 25 minutes gone when Bi Yan's free-kick from the right was nodded back across goal and a mighty scramble ensued before Vietnam hacked the ball away.
But the defending champions took the lead in impressive fashion on the half-hour mark.
Xu received the ball with her back to goal on the edge of the area and quickly shifted it from her right to her left foot before finding the bottom corner with a fine strike that was too good for the sprawling Dang.
The second-half began where the first left off as China dominated possession without fashioning any real clear-cut chances, while Vietnam threatened only sporadically on the break.
China skipper Lie Jie fired high over the bar from six yards when off balance after meeting Xu's cross before Lou Jiahui drove into the box but the substitute chose the wrong option in going for the near post instead of rolling the ball across the six-yard box towards a host of waiting team-mates.
Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh then made a vital interception with quarter of an hour to go when the Vietnam defender turned Bi Yan's dangerous centre over her own bar.
Xu saw a strike from the edge of the area fly wide of the left post before late drama saw Han given her marching orders with two minutes to go.
A scuffle in the Vietnam box as the hosts lined up a wall for a free-kick left Nguyen Thi Nga on the floor and, after consultation with her assistant, referee Hong Eun-ah brandished a red card to the forward. Li's set-piece curled narrowly wide but ten-woman China still comfortably closed out victory.