Indonesia managed to start their 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign in the best way possible after they stunned hosts Kuwait 2-1 on Wednesday night’s third round qualifying opener. Despite going down by a goal late in the first half, Indonesia roared back and pulled off a stunning comeback to seal all three points, surviving a Kuwaiti assault throughout the second half to record their first win over the Gulf nation in 42 years.
Playing in hostile enemy territory at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City, Indonesia started off the match slowly with the Kuwaitis trying to assume early command of proceedings, with the Timnas Garuda only recording their first chance of the match in the 17th minute. Both Indonesia and Kuwait then exchanged blow after blow, with shots going either off target or being diverted away by the respective sides’ goalkeepers.
The hosts took the lead in the 40th minute, after captain Bader Al-Mutawa took advantage of a Marc Klok error to cross the ball into the box from the right flank. The ball was met with a thumping header from Yousef Nasser that easily breached through Nadeo Argawinata’s defenses. 1-0 for Kuwait.
However, Indonesia would respond to this setback in emphatic fashion only four minutes after conceding. Defender Fahad Hammoud made the error of fouling Rachmat Irianto inside the box, forcing the referee to award Indonesia a penalty. Klok successfully made amends for his earlier error by dispatching the spot kick emphatically, drawing the scoreline level as the match enters half-time.
Indonesia then came out with all guns blazing in the second half and the Timnas Garuda took the lead in the 47th minute. A Witan Sulaeman effort was blocked by a Kuwaiti defender, with the rebound being slammed home almost immediately by Irianto. 2-1 Indonesia and the Kuwait supporters were stunned.
Kuwait tried their best to reclaim the tie, however some resolute defending from Nadeo, Rizky Ridho, and Elkan Baggott prevented the hosts from getting themselves an equalizer. Instead, on the other end of the pitch, Indonesia had numerous chances to make it 3-1, only for Ricky Kambuaya and Witan to squander their opportunities.
Nonetheless, Indonesia managed to brave themselves through a tense second half to claim an important win that puts them a step closer to qualifying into next year’s Asian Cup.
Other ASEAN nations also fared quite well in their first bows of the qualifiers’ third round. Both Thailand and Malaysia claim wins over the Maldives and Turkmenistan respectively, with the Changsuek prevailing 3-0 and the Harimau Malaya winning 3-1. The Philippines managed to play out a 0-0 draw with Yemen, while Singapore were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Kyrgyzstan.
Meanwhile, a Sunil Chhetri double helped India to a 2-0 win over Cambodia, while 10-men Myanmar succumbed to a heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of Tajikistan.