It was a mediocre start for Indonesia at the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup as the problem-ridden team tied 2-2 against less favored Laos in their opening Group B match on Sunday evening.
The result brings further headaches for the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) as the national team’s defense was affected by the injury of Hengki Ardiles and Diego Michiels’ arrest after allegations of assault.
Playing at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, although on the attack, failed to cope with its poor defending against Laos, which it had previously thrashed 6-0 at the 2010 AFF Cup.
A red card was given to each team, forcing both camps to reassess strategies.
Indonesia’s two goals came from Dutch-born and newly naturalized Raphael Guilermo Maitimo, who replaced Indonesian prodigy Arthur Irawan in the very last minute of the first half, at the 42nd minute, and Vendry Mofu 89th minute.
Laos netted goals through Khampheng Sayavutthi’s penalty kick in the 29th minute and by Keoviengpheth Lithideth 79th minute, Antara news agency reported.
The national squad managed to create an opportunity for Dutch-born Irfan Bachdim’s header in the sixth minute, but the ball passed over the bar.
Indonesian striker Bambang Pamungkas also failed to capitalize on opportunities.
A thunder clap hit Indonesia at the 25th minute, when goalie Endra Prasetya was given a red card for tackling Laos’ Vilayout Sayyabounsou during the former’s attempt to save the ball. As a result, Octovianus Maniani had to leave the pitch, to give his place to substitute goalie Wahyu Tri Nugroho.
Endra’s saving attempt also resulted in a penalty kick rewarded to Laos, which gave them their first goal.
Playing with only 10 men, Indonesia seemed to be losing its grip until the 33rd minute, when referee Ng Kai Lami handed another red card to Laos’ Sopha Saysana, who fouled Andik.
With Laos also down to 10 men, Indonesia regained parity and managed to equal the score at 1-1 through Raphael’s looping header in the 42nd minute.
Fighting back, Laos increased the pace. But Lithideth’s goal in the 68th minute was declared a handball and annulled. He managed in his next attempt to turn the tables to 2-1.
The national squad attempted to revive play after Vendry replaced Bambang, and came back with a more organized defense.
Vendry’s tap-in followed a rebound from a good shot from Andik, helping Indonesia to claw back to a tie, which lasted until the final whistle.
National team coach Nil Maizar admitted Laos’ improved game.
“We will evaluate what happened tonight. Hopefully we can be better in the next match against Singapore on Nov. 28 [Wednesday],” he said in his interview with RCTI.
In another Group B match, host Malaysia lost to Singapore 0-3.
Indonesia will face defending champion Malaysia in the next group match. While in Group A, favorite Thailand is to meet with Myanmar, while Vietnam faces the Philippines.