SEA Games holders Thailand pegged back after Indonesia penalty
A second-half penalty by Septian David earned Indonesia a precious point as they opened their 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign with a 1-1 draw against tournament favourites Thailand.
The holders took an early lead in Kuala Lumpur through Chaiyawat Buran, but they never looked at ease against the pacy Indonesian attack, and David's spot-kick gave Luis Milla's side a deserved point.
The Thais, who coasted to victory in 2015 with the likes of Chanathip Songkrasin shining, are aiming to win the SEA Games' men's football gold medal for a record 16th time.
Indonesia made the better start, with Febri Haryadi's pace and trickery causing problems for the Thai defence. But it was Thailand who took the lead against the run of play in the 14th minute following a horrendous goalkeeping error.
The War Elephants had come close when Chenrop Sampaodi's close-range effort was scrambled clear. A hopeful ball was then lofted in by Rattanakorn Maikami, and it looked a comfortable catch for Kartika Ajie in the Indonesian goal. However, under no pressure, the keeper let the ball slip through his hands, and Chaiyawat gratefully slotted in from a tight angle.
The Indonesians were rattled by going behind and skipper Hansamu Yama was lucky not to be sent off for a stamp on Phitiwat Sookjitthummakul. Muhammad Hargianto was then yellow-carded for an ugly lunge on Sasalak Haiprakhon.
Chenrop was not far away from adding a second, but headed over from Kevin Deeromram's cross in the 25th minute.
The Indonesians looked dangerous when their wide men ran at the Thai defence, but they struggled to create any clear chances.
And the Thais squandered another opportunity in the 38th minute. Wonderful skill by Deeromram on the left saw him nutmeg his opponent and he cut the ball back for Nattawut Sombathya, who side-footed just wide.
David's cross was headed over by Marinus Wanewar just before half-time -- the best chance the Indonesians had made.
Indonesia caught the Thai defence napping at the start of the second half as David's cross from the left found Haryadi unmarked at the far post. But the midfielder sliced his volley wide to let Thailand off the hook.
Indonesia were then handed the perfect opportunity to level when Osvaldo Haay was brought down by Worawut Namvech's clumsy challenge in the 61st minute. David sent Nont Muangam the wrong way from the spot.
Thailand took time to recover their composure but finally threatened again in the 79th minute when an excellent 20-yard strike from Phitiwat brought the best in Ajie, who tipped the ball over.
But the final chances fell to Indonesia as Wanewar headed well over from a good position, and then Nont had to look lively to keep out Evan Dimas' effort at the near post.
In Group B's other afternoon game, Vietnam dismissed the challenge of Timor-Leste with a 4-0 victory.
Doan Van Hau struck either side of a goal from Ha Duc Chinh to give the Vietnamese a 3-0 half-time lead. And Nguyen Cong Phuong added a fourth in the 72nd minute to give Vietnam a convincing start to their campaign before they face Cambodia on Thursday.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK