AFF: Gonzáles gives Indonesia crucial one goal advantage
A 32nd minute strike from Cristian Gonzáles was enough to give Indonesia a narrow 1-0 advantage in their AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final, first leg match against the Philippines today in Djakarta.
The Philippines, who finished second behind Vietnam in Group B, were supposed to be at home in the first leg today but were told by the Executive Committee that they had inadequate stadia and, therefore, were told to play both legs of their semi-final against Group A winners Indonesia in their opponents’ country. So it was that both teams took to the field in the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in front of 70,000 spectators and, in a fairly open game, it was to be Uruguayan-born Gonzáles who would settle the contest. He capitalized upon some defensive uncertainly after Firman Utina’s long ball from deep inside the Philippines’ half reached his head on the angle of the six yard box. getting inbetween the visitors’ keeper Neil Etheridge and left-back Ray Jónsson. Despite having a free header Gonzáles almost missed the target; had the ball gone another metre to the left then he would’ve missed an open goal. Instead the ball hit the inside of the far post and went in much to the delight of the home crowd.
The Philippines did well to restrict the ‘de facto’ hosts of the game to one goal. This, after all, is the country’s first ever semi-final and they reached them having only conceded one goal in three games before today. If their defence can remain so resolute in the second leg then they might have a chance of upsetting the odds. However if the Indonesians can make the most of their ‘official’ home tie on Sunday then they should, as expected, reach the final. A fascinating clash awaits.