Jakarta: Christian Gonzales secured Indonesia's place in the AFF Suzuki Cup final on Sunday, firing in the only goal as his side downed the Philippines 1-0 in the second leg of the semi-finals at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
The Uruguay-born striker netted his tournament-leading third goal just before half-time to complete a 2-0 aggregate win for the Indonesians, which set up a meeting in the final against Malaysia, who eliminated defending champions Vietnam on Saturday.
It will be a clash between two teams that have not previously won the AFF Suzuki Cup with the first leg in Kuala Lumpur on December 26 and the return match in Jakarta three days later.
Philippines coach Simon McMenemy named an unchanged starting line-up for a fourth game in a row but Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl made a change up front as forward Irfan Bachdim was replaced by Yongki Aribowo, who made his first appearance in the tournament.
Roared on by a capacity crowd that included Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesians began in the ascendancy. The first sign of real danger came after 11 minutes when Yongki turned past Philippines skipper Alexander Borromeo in midfield and played the ball through for Gonzalez, who beat the offside trap but failed to get to the ball ahead of goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
Although they trailed 1-0 in the tie, the Philippines failed to generate any concerted pressure and were limited to shots from long range in the first half. They failed to get their attempts anywhere near the target with Phil Younghusband, Chris Greatwich and Anton Del Rosario all firing over the crossbar.
The Indonesians started to turn their pressure into decent chances but Gonzales was guilty of flubbing two clear-cut chances midway through the first half. The Uruguay-born forward directed a diving header off a cross by Mohammed Nasuha directly at Etheridge and then failed to make any decent contact when he was found completely unattended in the six-yard box by Muhammad Ridwan's cutback from the right by-line.
Tempers boiled over in the 41st minute when Greatwich appeared to kick out at Ahmad Bustomi while both players were on the ground near the halfway line. It sparked off a scuffle between both sides with Greatwich eventually booked. The resulting free-kick found its way past the entire host Philippines defence to Gonzalez but the striker was unprepared to receive the ball and could only direct it wide of the target.
Gonzales had missed three clear-cut chances but he finally made one count two minutes before the break. His initial shot was blocked by Borromeo but the defender failed to get it clear and the ball broke right back to Gonzales who curled it at the second attempt past Etheridge into the top left corner of the net to become the leading scorer of the tournament with three goals.
Despite holding a two-goal advantage, the Indonesians continued to turn the screw at the beginning of the second half. Five minutes after the break Zulkifly Syukur fired an attempt from 25 metres straight at Etheridge. The goalkeeper knocked it down dangerously in front of himself and appeared to bowl over Yongky as they went for the loose ball. However, Bahraini referee Ali Hasan Abdulnabi decided not to whistle for a penalty.
With little left to lose, the Philippines began to exert greater pressure and nearly pulled a goal back in the 56th minute when Borromeo flicked Del Rosario's throw-in to Phil Younghusband, who guided his attempt over the crossbar.
With 20 minutes left, the ball fell to Del Rosario on the edge of the box. He put his shot on target but it was too close to Markus Harison to cause the goalkeeper any real problems.
The visitors' best opportunities arrived with just 10 minutes to go. Substitute Emelio Caligdong nearly put the ball past Markus after Hamka Hamzah had been caught in possession in his own box. Greatwich then headed wide after Borromeo had flicked on Del Rosario's long throw.
The Philippines' disappointing night was completed three minutes from time when Greatwich was sent off after receiving his second booking for a desperate lunge on Markus.
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