Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Plucky Indonesia Undone By Familiar Failings

Two games in and Indonesia's future in the biennial AFF Suzuki Cup rests on a knife edge as a familiar failing deprived them of a maximum return against the hosts Philippines last night at the Philippine Sports Stadium. Leading 2-1 with 10 minutes or so on the clock is that most precarious of.positions especially for an Indonesian team not reknowned for their levels of fitness. 

A Philippines free kick and it was deja vu among the travelling support who may not have placed much hope in their side's chances to progress but were seduced by a thrilling display from their heroes in the opening 75 minutes as they took the game to their hosts. 

One nil up on four minutes, Fachrudin heading home Stefano Lilpally' teasing free kick, Indonesia continued to tease their fans and torment the Azkal's defence in equal measure. With pace merchants Boas Solossa and Andik Vermansyah  always a threat Indonesia huffed and puffed but a second goal in the opening 45 minutes was elusive and there was little surprise when the Philippines levelled just before half time.from a set piece. 

Second half saw the home team turn on the pressure but Indonesia's defence and midfield worked like Trojans to protect Meiga Kurnia between the sticks. It was so reminiscent of the AFC Asian Cup in 2007 when feverish determination kept the likes of Saudi Arabia and South Korea at bay for so long. 

But like 2007 you knew a sting in the tail was possible as the fitness levels dropped. Halfway through the second half Boas scored his second of the tournament to send the travelling support who made up 25% of the announced attendance went mental but even as the fans danced and sang you knew the goal came with a caveat.

If football lasted 80 minutes Indonesia would be sharing top spot of the group with Thailand rather than being bottom with just a single point. But we had seen how, after a disappointing first 45 minutes against the Thais the Indonesians had recovered a two goal deficit only to concede two more goals in the last 10, 12 minutes, there exists a fragility within the squad as the clock winds down., That there was no wailing or chestbeating among the away fans suggested many knew it was coming. 

Come the final whistle and undoubtedly it was the Philippines who were more relieved at seeing a point rescued. Alfred Riedl knows Indonesia must beat Singapore on Friday and hope Thailand don't take it easy against the hosts to secure a spot in the semi finals. They also know it won't be easy. The Lions kept the Thais at bay with a defensive wall Donald Trump would be proud of. Singapore have discipline and stamina and Indonesia know they can't be as profligate as they were last night if they are to reach the semis. And the way Singapore asked a few questions of the Thai defence in the final moments of their game will be something Indonesia will need to guard against.

Indonesia are not out of the AFF Suzuki Cup. Not yet. But to go through they will have to enter unchartered waters and protect a good position when they find themselves in one.

1 - Thailand 2 2 0 0 5-2 6
2 - Philippines 2 0 2 2-2 2
3 - Singapore 2 0 1 1 0-1 1
4 - Indonesia 2 0 1 1 4-6 1

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