By Gabriel Tan
The Laotians took the lead in the 30th minute when Khampheng Sayavutthi netted from the spot after Endra Prasetya had conceded a penalty and earned his marching orders, but they were soon down to ten man as well when Sopha Saysana received a controversial red.
Two minutes before the break, Indonesia full-back Raphael Maitimo ensured his first cap would be one to remember as he nodded home an equaliser, but Laos found themselves ahead once more in the 80th minute when Keoviengpheth Lithideth pounced on an error to score.
But as injury time beckoned, Laos keeper Sengphachan Bountisanh gifted a goal to Vendry Mofu when he pushed a shot straight into the path of his opponent for an easy put-away, costing his side what would have arguably their most famous victory ever.
And although they didn't leave the Bukit Jalil National Stadium emptyhanded, Merah Putih will undoubtedly feel they should have sealed all three points against a side who have only ever won two games in Southeast Asia's premier international competition.
Aware that is was vital for his side to get their campaign off to a winning start, especially with games against Singapore and Malaysia to come, Indonesia coach Nil Maizar opted for an extremely attacking lineup, naming Bambang Pamungkas and Irfan Bachdim up front, with Oktovianus Maniani and Andik Vermansyah supporting down the flanks.
Six minutes in, they had a good opportunity when Andik found space down the right and clipped a ball into the box straight onto the head of Bachdim, who was unable to keep his effort on target.
Four minutes later, the Merah Putih striker was guilty of being even more wasteful when was picked out once again by Andik and sent a blistering shot straight at Sengphacha, before smashing the rebound way over from eight yards out.
Laos were beginning to struggle containing the pint-sized Andik down the wing and he carved out another chance for his side in the 14th minute when left his opponent for dead and drilled a low cross to Pamungkas, who looked poised to open the scoring until his snapshot was bravely blocked Phattana Syvilay.
Despite their opponents' strong start, Laos were looking fairly comfortable in possession and created their first real chance in the 24th minute when Khampheng beat the offside trap and made his way into the box, before firing away a shot that was unconvincingly pushed wide by Endra.
Four minutes before the half-hour mark, the Indonesia custodian's evening got worse when he conceded a penalty and received his marching orders for bringing down Vilayout, who had found a gap in the opponents' defence and raced through on goal, allowing Khampheng to step up and fire his side into the lead from the spot.
However, Laos' numerical advantage then evaporated in the 33rd minute when Sopha was controversially handed a straight red for a fairly tame challenge on Andik, and straight away, Indonesia began to gain the ascendancy.
Three minutes before the break, Sengphachan had a close shave when he almost pushed a bullet header from Maitimo over himself and into his own net but was relieved to see the ball narrowly clear the bar.
Nonetheless, there was to no denying the Merah Putih debutant a minute later when Pamungkas met the resultant corner with a header that was deflected back off the woodwork, allowing Maitimo to pounce and nod the rebound into the far corner.
Nine minutes into the second half, a slip by Phattana allowed a right-wing cross to make its way to Pamungkas at the far post but his control let him down and by the time he got his shot away, a recovering defender had arrived to crowd him out.
While no one had given them any chance of getting anything out of this game ahead of kickoff, the Laotians continued to match their opponents and Wahyu Tri Nugroho, who had come on after Endra had been sent off, had to be alert in the 66th minute to push away a fierce shot from Khampheng at full stretch.
Three minutes later, Soukaphone Vongchiengkam broke down the right and held the ball up well before lifting it into the path of the rampaging Keongviengpheth, who brought the ball down and fired home, only for the strike to be correctly chalked off for handball.
Tonie Cusell then wasted an excellent chance at the other one when he was picked out inside the area by a speculative over-the-top pass with no opposition defender near him but let the ball slip under his foot, and could only scuff his effort wide by the name he had retrieved it.
Ten minutes from time, Laos found the goal they deserved for their endeavour when Keongviengpheth, who had been extremely lively after coming on, capitalised on a slip on the edge of area by an Indonesian player and latched onto the loose ball, before skipping past the despairing challenge of Novan Setya Sasongko and clinically firing into the back of the net.
Had they gone on to win the game, not many would have begrudged Laos the three points given the way they had taken the game to their more-illustrious opponents.
Alas, it was not to be as with a minute remaining, Sengphachan inexplicably spilled a shot from Andik right at Vendry's feet, allowing the Semen Padang man to tap home and steal a point for his side.
Indonesia: Endra Prasetya, Raphael Maitimo, Handi Ramdhan (Fachruddin Aryanto 71') , Wahyu Wijiastanto, Novan Setyo Sasongko, Andik Vermansyah, Tonnie Cusell, Muhammad Taufiq, Oktovianus Maniani (Wahyu Tri Nugroho 29'), Irfan Bachdim, Bambang Pamungkas (Vendry Mofu 65').
Laos: Sengphachan Bounthisanh, Phattana Syvilay, Ketsada Souksavanh, Khampoumy Hanevilay, Kovanh Namthavixay, Viengsavanh Sayyaboun (Kanlaya Sysomvang 88'), Soukaphone Vongchiengkam, Sopha Saysana, Visay Phaphouvanin (Khonesavanh Sihavong 73'), Vilayout Sayyabounsou (Keoviengpheht Lithideth 32'), Khampheng Sayavutthi.
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