Friday, April 01, 2011


Persija v Persipura Match Preview

It could be the defining game of the 2010/2011 Indonesia Super League season.

Persipura have led the ISL since putting Pelita Jaya to the sword way back in September. They have been ruthless and relentless, steamrollering lesser teams and happy to snatch a point when against stronger opposition.

Tomorrow try to protect their eight point lead when they take on Persija at the Bung Karno Stadium knowing a win would make their lead all but unassailable with just games left.

For Persija there may not be a better time to take on the Black Pearls who have had a hex over them over the last five or six years. Persipura have dropped crucial points away to Sriwijaya and Persib though coach Jacksen F Tiago may point to points gained in two very tricky away games.

After being held goalless away to Sriwjaya, and not many teams escape from the Jakabaring Stadium with a clean sheet, Persipura showed the mentality of champions when they came from 2-0 in the intimidating atmosphere of Jalak Harupat Stadium, to earn a draw against a Persib side enjoying a mild recovery.

Persija, on the other hand, will rue their missed opportunity to make up ground. They travelled to struggling Persijap and got thumped 4-1 in a game that was a great advertisement for Indonesian football.

Ironically at the heart of Persijap’s unlikely triumph was their new signing, former Persipura striker Alberto Goncalves. Prompted by the silky skills of former Deltras midfielder Jose Sebastian the Brazilian showed his old predatory skills to net twice and only an inspired performance in goal by the veteran former national team keeper Hendro Kartiko prevented the Brazilian striker from getting a hat trick.

Victory in Jepara would have seen Persija move within five points of Persipura but it wasn’t to be. Instead coach Tiago will be happy with two very difficult away points and will be guffawing with joy at seeing Goncalves further dent Persija’s title aspirations.

Overcoming an eight point deficit can seem a tough ask but the Persija coach Rahmad Darmawan won’t be seeing a chasm. Instead he will be looking at games played where Persija have one game in hand. Beat Persipura tomorrow and win that game in hand, suddenly the gap becomes two points and Tiago will start to sweat.

The game at the Bung Karno promises to be a fascinating affair between a couple of wily coaches experienced in winning the title. Tiago has won it twice, with Persebaya and Persipura while Darmawan also has two victories under his belt; with Persipura and Sriwijaya. With Arema and Sriwijaya proving to be inconsistent the ISL is morphing into a two horse race with the respective coaches eying an unprecedented third title.

This was my Jakarta Globe column this week but was never used! Another to follow...I hope!

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