Indonesia has kept its hopes alive of bringing home the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup soccer trophy for the first time after dramatically beating Singapore 2-1 on Friday in Manila, advancing to the semifinal round to meet Group B leader Vietnam.
With Friday’s significant win, Indonesia surged to second place on the leaderboard with a total of four
points in the bag, enough to qualify for the next round of the biennial tournament. Meanwhile, defending champion Thailand, which beat the Philippines 1-0 in the day’s other match in Bocaue, has racked up nine points.
Late-riser Indonesia unexpectedly took over the match in the second half through two decisive goals from star midfielders Andik Virmansyah and Stefano Lilipaly, in the 62nd and 85th minutes, respectively — the perfect finisher to wrap up the match in victory.
It was already intense once the match started, but both teams played it in extra-cautious mode while building their respective set-pieces.
The cup’s four-time winner Singapore got its first yellow card after defender Muhammad Shakir bin Hamzah fouled Indonesia’s Evan Dimas Darmono in the seventh minute.
The Merah Putih midfielders Andik and Evan both had opportunities in the 13th and 21st minutes to get on the scoreboard but failed in their execution.
Singapore’s forward Khairul Amri threatened Indonesian keeper Kurnia Meiga’s net in the 26th, but again to no avail.
It only took a minute later for Singaporean midfielder Muhammad Safuwan to produce an assist, which was responded to perfectly by Amri with a sensational shot in the 27th minute to give his team a seemingly convincing 1-0 lead.
Having gone behind, under-pressure Indonesia tried to fight back with at least six attempts from midfielder Bayu Pradana, striker and team captain Boaz Solossa and Andik, but Singapore erected a solid defense.
The first half ended with Indonesia showing an aggressive approach, but lacking in deliverance.
In the second half, Indonesia elevated its attacking pace, trying to break down Singapore’s so far impenetrable defense.
Defender Abduh Lestahulu tried to collaborate with midfielder Rizki Pora in the 50th minute, but the ball hit Singapore’s bar.
Rizki then created another chance, which was perfectly responded to by Andik in the 62nd minute.
Singapore persisted, trying to find a loophole to level up but Kurnia performed at his best.
Pumped up, Indonesia continued attacking the now under-pressure Singapore — finding the perfect point to take over the lead in the 85th minute by the terrific coordination of Boaz and Stefano.
In the lead, Indonesia was still up for more chances in the last three minutes, but could not find the rhythm. The referee blew the final whistle to the delight of the Indonesians.
The AFF Cup is the first international event for Indonesia since the lifting by world soccer body FIFA of its one-year ban in May. Advancing to the event’s next round gives hope for Indonesian soccer of a brighter future.
Four-time runner-up Indonesia has never won the AFF Cup. In 2012 and 2014 it failed to qualify for the knock-out stage.