JAKARTA, July 10 (Reuters) - Indonesia forward Bambang Pamungkas's second-half strike gave the Asian Cup co-hosts a 2-1 victory over Bahrain in a lively Group D opener on Tuesday.
In sweltering heat in the Gelora Bung Karno stadium, both
sides had chances as the play swung swiftly from end to end.
But it was Pamungkas, who had troubled the visitors with
his trickery around the box, sealed Indonesia's win 18 minutes
into the second half when he blasted home a rebound after the
Bahrain keeper could only parry a ferocious Firman Utina shot
onto the post.
Indonesia coach Ivan Kolev played tribute to his side's
desire and said all the team played well.
'They wanted to win. They proved to all of us that they can
win,' Kolev told a post-match news conference, where he also
thanked the noisy home fans who had filled much of the
88,000-capacity stadium in the capital.
Asked about his strategy for the game, he said: 'We did
study how Bahrain played. And then we tried to anticipate
clearly with the ability of Indonesian players.'
The home team had struck first in the 14th minute after
midfielder Utina threaded a defence-splitting pass through to
Budi Sudarsono, who chested the ball beyond the goalkeeper and
slotted home from inside the penalty area.
The visitors then drew level in the 27th minute after a
cross from the right ricocheted off several players before
Sayed Mahmood Jalal tapped in from close range.
Late into the second half Bahrain hit the crossbar and
their coach Milan Macala said his team had not won because they
had missed a number of decent opportunities.
'That is the reason we lost the game', Macala told gathered
reporters and also complained about the quality of the training
pitch his team had to use.
The win marks revenge for Indonesia, who were beaten 3-1 by
Bahrain in the 2004 Asian Cup in China.
Kolev played down injury concerns over captain Ponaryo
Astaman, who limped off in the second half, saying the problem
was an old one and hopefully after treatment he would be fit.
South Korea and Saudi Arabia are the other teams in the
group. Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are also co-hosting the
tournament with the final taking place in Jakarta on July 29.