SINGAPORE, January 13 (Asean Football Championship) - Indonesia kicked off their Group B campaign in the Asean Football Championship by coming from a goal down to defeat Laos 3-1 at the National Stadium in Singapore on Saturday.
Laos took a shock lead with an early strike by Sounthalay Xaysongkham but a second half brace by Atep and a goal by substitute Saktiawan Sinaga ensured that Peter Withe's side got off to a winning start.
The monsoon conditions that had seen heavy rain fall on the island republic for much of the previous three days finally let up two hours before kick-off but created heavy conditions on the National Stadium pitch.
Indonesia dominated possession for much of the first half although Sisomphone Sathongyot served notice of the danger that Laos posed on the counter-attack by forcing a save out of Hendro Kartiko in the opening minute.
Indonesia were presented with their first opportunity in the third minute when Atep was felled on the edge of the box. Ismed Sofyan's free kick flew low to the right and was pushed away somewhat nervously by goalkeeper Sengphachan Bounthisanh for a corner.
Confidently stroking the ball around, the Indonesians created a number of openings in the early stages with Bounthisanh stopping an Eka Ramdani effort and Firmansyah heading over.
However the game took a stunning turn in the 13th minute when the Laotians took the lead against the run of play following a superb through ball by skipper Visay Phaphouvanin to Sounthalay Xaysongkham.
The 19-year-old found himself completely alone on the edge of the box and fired a rising shot past the onrushing Kartiko into the left corner of the net.
Stunned by the setback, Indonesia became ragged and it took them 15 minutes to settle before they began to threaten the Laotian goal in earnest once again.
On 28 minutes, Indonesia captain Ponaryo Astaman released Ilham Jayakesuma following a superb one-two with the Persita Tenggarang striker but Bounthisanh dashed off his line to stop Jayakesuma's shot with his feet.
The Indonesian attempts mounted with Eka Ramdani slicing a shot from the edge of the box wide, Saktiawan Sinaga blazing over from 10 yards and Atep swerving in a right-footed shot that was brilliantly tipped over by Bounthisanh.
On 42 minutes, Ramdani should have scored when he intercepted a pass by Khamxay Phakasy and bore down on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat but fired over.
Jayakesuma than squandered Indonesia's best chance of the half two minutes before the break when a Mahyadi Panggabean pass found him completely alone in the six yard box.
However, he was unable to get the ball under control allowing the Laotian defence to clear the ball to Atep, whose shot went high over the crossbar.
Indonesia continued to dominate after the break and went close when Atep's free kick from the left just missed a trio of onrushing forwards.
However, the Indonesians finally got back on level terms in the 50th minute as the Laotian defence failed to deal with a cross from the left which was chested down by Jayakesuma into the path of Atep, who fired home from close range.
Indonesia were in the ascendancy but poor finishing saw them squander a trio of gilt-edged opportunities around the hour mark as Bambang Pamungkas shot wide and Jayakesuma and Ramdani had weak efforts saved by Bounthisanh.
Laos's finishing was little better though as Sisomphone Sathongyot squared the ball for Phaphouvanin but the Laos skipper failed to even get a shot on target.
The wasteful Jayakesuma was finally hauled off in the 65th minute and it took just two minutes for his replacement, Saktiawan Sinaga, to find the target.
Receiving a pass from Ismed Sofyan, PSMS Medan striker surged past three Laotian players before firing an unstoppable effort past Bounthisanh from the right side of the Laos box.
Laos gamely attempted to get back into the game with Sisomphone Sathongyot firing a free kick over and Boo Syhalath surging clear only to see his weak shot easily handled by Kartiko.
It was all over in the 75th minute when Atep netted his second goal of the game when he launched a speculative effort from the edge of the box that flew into the net off the left upright.
Erol Iba could have extended Indonesia's lead in the closing minutes with an effort that went into the side netting but there was little denying the Indonesians a deserved 3-1 victory.