Southeast Asian duo Indonesia and Cambodia have the advantage in their 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying play-off ties, winning their first leg matches by the slightest of margins. Indonesia edged out Taiwan 2-1 at the Chang Arena in Buriram, Thailand on Thursday, while Saturday’s action saw favorites Cambodia eke out a 1-0 win over Guam at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Bahrain.
19-year old winger Ramai Rumakiek continued his eye-catching form with Persipura Jayapura in his international debut, opening the scoring for Indonesia in the 16th minute with a well-taken finish through goalkeeper Shih Shin-an’s legs after receiving the decisive cross from fellow national team debutant Miftah Anwar Sani.
Ramai was a constant thorn by the Taiwanese side and the opposition resorted to desperate measures in order to stop the Jayapura-born player, resulting in Ramai being taken off in the 27th minute due to an injury. However, this could prove to be Taiwan’s undoing as Ramai’s replacement is the much-anticipated Egy Maulana Vikri, who proceeded to terrorize the Taiwanese defense with his six shots throughout the remainder of the game.
Captain Evan Dimas doubled Indonesia’s advantage in the 48th minute, with the Bhayangkara FC player taking advantage of Arema FC’s Kushedya Hari Yudo’s incisive pass.
Hsu Heng-pin did give Taiwan a valuable away goal in the dying minutes of the match, but Indonesia’s performance against the East Asians was undoubtedly one of the best performances of the Timnas Garuda underneath head coach Shin Tae-yong. With his first-ever win as Indonesia head coach now underneath his belt, Tae-yong can concentrate his efforts to defend the Timnas Garuda‘s slender lead for the second leg this coming Monday.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Cambodia took on minnows Guam at Bahrain for their own Asian Cup qualifying play-off match. Determined to seal the advantage for the second leg on Tuesday, the Angkor Warriors were faced with a stubborn Guam side determined to cause a shock.
The islanders went forward in waves, putting pressure on the Cambodian defense and their goalkeeper Keo Soksela. However, Cambodia’s quality shone through eventually and it was their star man, Chan Vathanaka, who gave Ryu Hirose’s men the valuable lead in the 26th minute.
No further goals were scored and Cambodia will have the slim advantage coming into the second leg.
Winners of the second leg will join 22 other nations who have already qualified to the third round of the qualifiers, with 11 tickets for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup awaiting those who are worthy enough.