Indonesia left outraged by refereeing decision in opening AFC U-23 Asian Cup defeat

Indonesia suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of hosts Qatar in their 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup opener -- in a game they were left feeling aggrieved at the final whistle after having both Ivar Jenner and Ramadhan Sananta sent off. Asian Football Confederation

As Indonesia fell to a 2-0 defeat to hosts Qatar in their 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup opener on Monday, the reaction in the immediate aftermath centred around outrage at a pivotal refereeing decision at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

And quite understandably so.

Indonesia would have already been feeling aggrieved when VAR came into play shortly before the break, awarding Qatar a penalty that was initially missed by referee Nasrullo Kabirov and duly converted by Khalid Ali Sabah.

Admittedly, it was the correct decision as it proved that Indonesia captain Rizky Ridho had glanced over his shoulder while a high ball was sent into the box before clattering into Mahdi Salem -- even appearing to send a stray arm towards the face of his Qatari opponent.

Conceding right on the stroke of halftime was a real blow for Indonesia, who had been giving their more-illustrious opponents a run for their money and even came close to breaking the deadlock moments earlier when Rafael Struick's speculative effort from the edge of the area clipped the outside of the post.

It likely meant that Indonesia coach Shin Tae-Yong had to adjust his halftime team talk at short notice, yet any instructions he might have given his charges soon went out the window moments after the restart.

As Qatar's Saifeldeen Hassan opted to go to ground with a sliding tackle in a 50-50 situation, he was soon writhing around in pain after appearing to come out worse in the challenge with Ivar Jenner stood over him.

Following a moment where it looked like only a freekick would be awarded, Kabirov then reached for his pocket and showed Jenner a second yellow - sending the midfielder back into the dressing room just over 30 seconds from when he had emerged out of it after the interval.

Saifeldeen's reaction suggested that he had been caught high by Jenner but replays showed there had been minimal contact. At best, a couple of Jenner's front studs would have brushed the top of Saifeldeen's knee.

Unfortunately for the Indonesians, VAR -- on this occasion -- was not able to intervene, given it was a second booking that led to Jenner's dismissal rather than a direct red card, with the latter -- but not the former -- being one of the four situations when the auxiliary officials can come into play.

Just seven minutes later, Qatar made their numerical advantage count when a superb 30-yard freekick by Ahmed Al-Rawi found its way into the back of the net off the inside of Ernando Ari's post to effectively end the contest.

There was still to be more ire for Indonesia as they then found themselves down to nine men in the closing stages of the match -- VAR this time able to get involved in injury-time and recommend that Ramadhan Sananta be shown a straight red, rather than a yellow, for an ill-timed challenge that saw him stamp on Mohamed Aiash's ankle.

While the Indonesians would have been feeling an overriding sense of injustice, VAR did appear to deliver the right decisions on both occasions it affected.

Still, it is hard to refute that the one decision when it was incapable of overruling Kabirov was a potentially decisive moment, especially considering Indonesia still ended the game with superior possession and goal attempts.

Usually composed, Shin struggled -- or plainly did not attempt -- to mince his words.

"There were many refereeing decisions that were detrimental. If you look at them, they're not (for) a football match, but a comedy show," Shin said, in his post-match news conference.

"I understand there is (usually) some advantage as hosts but, today, there were too many.

"I don't think I can sleep tonight. Football cannot be played like this."

In spite of their anger, Indonesia must now overcome this sense of having been wronged with games coming thick and fast -- starting with Thursday's meeting with Australia and then their Group A finale on April 21 against Jordan.

They will have to do so without the vital presence of Jenner in the engine room as well as Sananta, who was shaping up as an excellent impact option as an alternative to Struick.

If anything, they did show they have what it takes to give quality opposition like Qatar a run for their money.

The question now is whether or not they can overcome an early setback -- especially given the manner in which it happened.