Final, Here We Come!

Final, Here We Come!
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Two rounds down and one more to go for the Merah Putih. Indonesia wore down a stubborn Philippines side for the second time in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup semifinals, winning 1-0 on Sunday with a stunning 18-meter strike by Christian Gonzales that left the crowd at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Stadium roaring with delight. The win secured a 2-0 aggregate victory and ushered Indonesia into the finals for the first time since 2004, the last of three successive runner-up finishes. Gonzales, who scored in the first leg, reprised his role as the team’s hero, firing Indonesia into the lead in the 42nd minute. That goal was enough to give the home side its fourth trip overall to the championship round. Next up for coach Alfred Riedl and his team is Malaysia in what promises to be an emotionally charged final. Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Jalil Stadium hosts the first leg on Dec. 26, with the return leg at Gelora Bung Karno on Dec. 29. Indonesia has never won the regional championship. Its last appearance in the final ended with a 5-2 aggregate defeat against Singapore. To end its frustration, it must go through Malaysia in a tense rivalry that extends well beyond the field. “We’ll start focusing on Malaysia [on Monday],” Riedl said on Sunday. “Against Malaysia, I want the players not to lose their heads, just like what happened in the last minutes against the Philippines. They have to be more calm.” Malaysia’s only loss in this tournament came against Indonesia, a 5-1 thumping in the Group A opener on Dec. 1. Since then, the Malaysians have strung together an unbeaten run of four matches. A 0-0 draw with Thailand and a 5-1 dismantling of Laos helped Malaysia recover to earn second place in the group. In the semifinals, it caught the tournament’s biggest fish, winning 2-0 on aggregate over Vietnam — scoring twice in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 15 and a grinding out a scoreless draw in Hanoi on Saturday — to humble the 2008 AFF Cup champion. Now, with both sides going for all the marbles, Indonesia and Malaysia cross paths again in a title game that will be fiercely fought and in some ways might open recent wounds. News Source : The Jakarta Globe Photo Source : The Jakarta Globe

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