Substitute Hsu Heng-pin was Taiwan’s hero on Thursday after he scored late in a 2-1 loss to Indonesia in the first leg of their AFC Asian Cup qualification playoff at Buriram Stadium in Thailand to keep his side’s hopes alive ahead of the second leg on Monday.
“It was already past 90 minutes and the coaches told us to make every effort to score a goal,” Hsu said. “When the ball came in there were no defenders near me. Chen Ting-yang knocked his header to me and I took the shot without hesitation. After it went in, I turned around to look at the linesman, because I was afraid of getting an offside call. Fortunately, it did not come and I was elated to score a goal for our team.”
Taiwan had fallen behind in the 18th minute when Miftah Anwar Sani hit a long cross from the left into the penalty area and, taking advantage of a mix-up in the defense, Ramai Rumakiek slipped past two defenders and fired past goalkeeper Derek Shih.
Photo courtesy of the CTFA
Both sides went on the offensive, attacking the opposition’s final third, but neither could find the net and it remained 1-0 at halftime.
Five minutes after the break Indonesia grabbed a second when Kushedya Hari Yudo advance into the penalty area, attracting the attention of the Taiwan defenders.
Yudo passed to captain Evan Dimas, who timed his run from the right side of the area to perfection and beat Shih with his first touch.
Looking more energetic and confident with a two-goal lead, Indonesia mounted more forays forward to test Taiwan’s defense and Shih made several outstanding saves to keep his side in the tie.
With a few minutes left on the clock, Taiwan midfielder Hsu Yi and Indonesia defender Asnawi Bahar clashed heads when they went up for a high ball.
Hsu Yi suffered a gash to his forehead and was carried off on a stretcher to be replaced by Hsu Heng-pin.
With the clock ticking into stoppage-time, Taiwan players surged into the penalty area for the ensuing free-kick. Chen got his head to the ball, knocking it to Hsu Heng-pin, who fired past Indonesia goalkeeper Muhamad Riyandi.
It could turn out to be a vital goal by the Taichung Futuro midfielder, as Indonesia were the hosts in the first leg and the away goal could make the difference in Monday’s second leg.
“We knew Indonesia had good players who can penetrate from both flanks and that happened, and we had lapses in our defense that allowed the opposition to score their two goals,” Taiwan interim manager Yeh Hsien-chung said.
“Since we arrived in Thailand our players have rallied and gelled as a team, with good morale ... that helped us to score the late, valuable away goal,” Yeh said. “We will prepare for the next match, and look to win and advance.”
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