Mon, 01 Dec 2003

RI beats Laos 1-0 in opening match

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian men's soccer team won its opening match on Sunday by recording a 1-0 victory over Laos in the Group A match in the 22nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The only goal was scored by 23-year-old striker Bambang Pamungkas in the 12 minute when Laos goalkeeper Vannasith Thilavonga failed to anticipate Bambang's kick from the left of the penalty area.

"Our 1-0 victory was partly because of luck. We could not cope with the pressure on the field," said Bambang, as quoted by Antara.

"Laos played surprisingly well and they were also supported by the spectators."

Indonesia's assistant coach Mundary Karya said, "Since the beginning, I told the players that this match was very important. They played well under pressure to try and fulfill our ambition to score as many goals as possible.

"With only one goal, it is less satisfying, but at least we have collected three points from this victory."

Laos coach Dominique Fernandez said his "underdog team" had played well. "I'm proud of my players. You can see that it was not easy for the Indonesian players to score."

The Indonesian team, which trained in Turkey for several months, will face host Vietnam in its second match on Thursday. Two years ago in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia won 1-0 against Vietnam.

Later on Sunday, Vietnam tied 1-1 with defending champion Thailand in Group A, dubbed "the group of death".

Vietnam scored 58 minutes into the second half with a goal from Van Quyen, but failed to keep its advantage.

Thailand followed with a goal in the 80th minute, thanks to a shot from Thonglao to avoid an embarrassing defeat to the host team.

The match had been heavily anticipated and a huge crowd gathered on Sunday morning in front of Hanoi's newly built 40,000-seat stadium.

Thailand is the favorite but Vietnam could pose a threat, playing at home and full of confidence after stunning Asia's top team South Korea with a 1-0 away win on Oct. 19.

The top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals, while the final is set for Dec. 12.

The SEA Games officially starts on Friday, but the soccer championship, the clinching card of the 32-medal sporting event, kicked off on Saturday.

Vietnam is first-time host of the SEA Games, in which over 5,700 athletes from 11 regional countries are competing.