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Syria Looks Good for Second Round
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Syria is well in contention to qualify for the next round in the men's football tournament after a  4-1 victory over plucky Indonesia in the Group B match at the Al Alhi Sports Club, Tuesday 21 November.

A rout looked on as Syria cruised into a  3-0 lead after 16 minutes and it looked even more likely when Indonesian defender Fandy Mochtar was dismissed in the 32nd minute.

Syrian striker Abdwlfatah Alaga opened the scoring in the 2nd minute with a near-post header from a wicked, in-swinging free kick from the right by Syrian skipper Maher Al Said.

The same combination again hit the back of the net in the 10th minute when an Al Said free kick on the right caused chaos in the Indonesian defense and Alaga lashed home, right footed from the edge of the six-yard box.

Six minutes on and it was skipper Maher Al Said who got his name on the score card. Not for the first time the Indonesian defense failed to clear a goal-mouth scramble and he planted the ball home from 10 yards.

Indonesia then settled to play some better football, keeping Syria at bay for long periods, but then Indonesia's Fandy Mochtar was shown the red card by the referee for a late tackle which left a Syrian player prone on the pitch. Indonesia was now down to ten men against a confident Syria, and struggled for the rest of the half.

Indonesian coach Foppe De Haan commented, "The red card was really stupid. We were just starting to play a little bit with some nice passes. The ball was in the middle of the pitch and the tackle was from behind – the ref had no alternative."

But it was a transformed Indonesia that emerged for the second half, with the pace and energy of Tony Sucipto causing the Syrian defence endless anxiety. It was Sucipto's run and low cross from the right in the 49th minute which enabled Gherry Nugraha to fumble home from eight yards.

Taufiq Kasrun and Mohammed Ardiansyah both had decent efforts, but Indonesia's old habits of sloppy defending and indiscipline both re-emerged in the final minutes.

First, Syrian substitute, Mohammed Alhamwi had time to spare as he converted a low cross to score in the 86th minute. Then three minutes later saw defender Zulkiifli Syukur shown the referee's red card for a late tackle from behind.

De Haan again, "Today we were better. We actually played football.

"I hope that we will play the next game against Singapore from the start and not from the second half as we did today."

Surprisingly the Syrian coach, Fajer Ebrahim, was not happy, "We won, but I'm not satisfied with the team.

"Iraq is is the best team in the Group. With Turkmenistan withdrawing, the second place we will work hard for. First in the Group will be difficult now."

( November 21, 2006)

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