The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian players are preparing to pack their bags and head home early after a 2-0 defeat against bitter rival and co-host Malaysia in the last round of the 2012 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup’s Group B matches on Saturday.
The defending champion — Malaysia — can now look forward to a semifinal berth along with three-time winner Singapore, which topped Group B after beating Laos 4-3 in another match that kicked off at the same time.
Malaysia will now meet Group A winner Thailand and Singapore meet Group A runner-up the Philippines in the semifinals of the biennial event, which runs until Dec. 22.
Playing at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, the Merah Putih (Red and White) squad only required a draw to earn a semifinal spot.
However, national coach Nil Maizar’s side failed to realize the nation’s hopes and could only manage to repeat the history of 2007, when the national squad was also halted at the group stage.
Indonesia started the game well, creating a good chance to score in the third minute through forward Samsul Arif Munip, but his shot went high and wide.
The Merah Putih team continued to attack from the right wing through Elie Aiboy, who managed to break through to the opponent’s back line, while Taufiq helped to create opportunities for Oktovianus Maniani to strike at goal from both central and left wing positions.
Irfan Bachdim almost got the better of Malaysian goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, only to come up against a Malaysian wall of defense.
As the tide turned, Malaysia began to rain down attacks on the Indonesian goal and eventually scored the first goal of the game when Azamuddin Akil struck in the 27th minute.
Indonesia tried to rally but it did not take long for Malaysian Mahali Jasuli to finish off Wan Zack Haikal’s pass into the roof of the net three minutes later, leaving the Tigers — as the Malay national team are also known — 2-0 up.
Indonesia’s play then became more aggressive after Andik Vermansyah — whose goal saved Indonesia from the brink in the previous match against Singapore — replaced Elie Aiboy in the 43rd minute, but the score line remained 2-0 until the end of the first half.
Aware of the threat that Andik posed, Krishnasamy Rajagopal’s side devoted two Malaysian players to keep the Indonesian from rallying his team — and fouls were inevitable.
In another match at the Shah Alam Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore thrashed Laos 4-3 after being 2-0 down for almost the entire first half.