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Afghanistan edge Indonesia in thrilling semi-final

Tabriz: Afghanistan advanced to the AFC U-20 Futsal Championship IR Iran 2019 final after defeating a plucky Indonesia 4-3 in a thrilling semi-final that went to extra-time on Thursday.

Afghanistan will face the winners of the Islamic Republic of Iran-Japan semi-final, being played later on Thursday, in Saturday's final.

Both sides were making their first appearance in the semi-finals, with Afghanistan maintaining their high tempo style of play to force Indonesia to be on high alert at the Pour Sharifi Indoor Stadium.

Indonesia, however, were far from overawed by Afghanistan’s aggression and the Southeast Asians signalled their intent when Muhammad Rizki Xavier’s shot in the first minute forced goalkeeper Mohammad Javad Safari into action.

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Afghanistan, however, gradually took control, forcing Indonesia to sit deep and play on the counter.

Afghanistan’s persistence paid off in the eighth minute when an Indonesian defensive error led to Morteza Haidari dispossessing Ramadhan Zidani.

Quick passes between him and Ali Arab Zada outwitted the Indonesian defenders, and Seyed Hossein Mousavi had the honour of applying the finishing touch from close range, for his fifth goal of the tournament.

Indonesia, who had shown how dangerous they could be from set-pieces, came close to equalising in the 12th minute, but Dewa Rizki Amanda failed to connect to Zidani’s corner kick.

The Southeast Asians maintained their discipline and despite Afghanistan continuing to probe, Indonesian ‘keeper Ahmad Habiebie had no trouble dealing with their attempts as the Central Asians took a slim lead into the half-time break.

Indonesia, needing an early equaliser, changed their style of play as they took on a more aggressive approach and drew level two minutes into the restart with skipper Rizki Xavier dispossessing Hassan Ali Jafari in the box, before tapping the ball past Javad Safari.

With the scores level, Afghanistan reverted to their attacking style with Mousavi and Hamid Reza Hossaini coming close in the 24th and 27th minutes, but Habiebie stood tall to deny them.

The Indonesian custodian, however, couldn’t react quickly enough when Arab Zada unleashed a strike from near the penalty spot that found the back of the net in the 29th minute, courtesy of Farzad Mahmoodi’s back heel pass.

Sayan Karmadi’s Indonesia immediately responded with power play, but there was no need for Muhammad Syaifullah’s service, as Muh Agung Pandege neatly dispossessed Reza Hossaini in front of the box, and sent the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to equalise once again at the half-hour mark to force extra time.

As Indonesia began to show signs of tiring, Afghanistan upped the tempo and were rewarded as Arab Zada displayed some great skill in dribbling past Ari Ramdani and Habiebie, before setting up Mousavi to finish from point blank range.

A desperate Indonesia resorted to power play but it backfired almost immediately with Dawood Yousufi making it 4-2, after Reza Hossaini had intercepted a pass on 45 minutes.

Indonesia went for broke in the second period of extra time but could only find the back of the net 10 seconds from time as Muhammad Sanjaya struck from a tight angle but it was Afghanistan who celebrated when the final whistle was blown.

Abdul Razaq Momrak: Afghanistan head coach

“Every footballer and futsal player wants to score and win the championship. One of our strongest characteristics is on defence, so we did well against their power play. We conceded in the second half due to pressure and fatigue. We will be fresh and motivated for the final. For some teams like Japan, who are strong in futsal, reaching the final is easy for them, but for us, this is the first time an U-20 or senior team has reached the final.”

Sayan Karmadi: Indonesia head coach

“I want to congratulate Afghanistan, as it was a great and tough match. We applied different strategies in pressing, power play and others but it didn’t work out. My players played their best in every aspect, physically and mentally. Maybe we weren’t as lucky, but I’m proud of my players. There will definitely be some changes from this match. We’ll review the video of this match. But one of the things that we need to look at is our motivation, and we hope our players will keep that spirit to finish third.”

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