Tournament dark horses Indonesia beat Laos 5-1 on Sunday (Dec 12) at the Bishan Stadium, to put pressure on Group B rivals Malaysia and Vietnam as all three vie for the top two spots in the group to progress to the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup.
Indonesia had beaten Cambodia 4-2 on Thursday and coach Shin Tae-young made six changes for their second match, starting with a young backline that included 19-year-old goalkeeper Ernando Ari, who was making his international debut between the sticks.
The Indonesians opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through Asnawi Mangkualam, who fired emphatically home from the penalty spot after fellow defender Alfeandra Dewangga was fouled in the box.
Asnawi turned provider 11 minutes later when his cross was turned in by Irfan Jaya.
But Indonesia were hit on the break in the 41st minute, with Kydavone Souvanny pulling a goal back for the Laotians with a good finish off a rare counter-attack.
Garudas coach Shin made a double substitution for the start of the second half, throwing on exciting young winger Witan Sulaeman and Ipswich Town defender Elkan Baggott, and the former made a quick impact, firing a low shot into the bottom corner to make it 3-1 in the 56th minute.
Up to that point, the game had been more competitive than many had expected, given Indonesia are five-time Asean Football Federation Championship runners-up while Laos have not won a match in the biennial tournament since 2004.
But as the Laotians tired in the closing stages of the game, Indonesia added two more goals.
Another substitute, Ezra Walian, scored in the 77th minute before Garudas skipper Evan Dimas squeezed the ball home past Laos’ 18-year-old goalkeeper Solasak Thilavong eight minutes later.
The margin of victory could have been even bigger, but Solasak made good saves to deny Ramai Rumakiek and Asnawi late on, while 1.94m Baggott saw his header come off the woodwork.