It’s been a mixed start to life in the AFC Cup, Asia’s
second tier cup competition, for Indonesia’s representatives Semen Padang and
Semen Padang, who won the Indonesia Premier League in 2012,
have been drawn in Group E alongside Kitchee (Hong Kong), Churchill Brothers
(India) and The Warriors (Singapore – formerly known as Singapore Armed
Forces)and they have begun the campaign positively.
Their first tie saw them up against Warriors at the H Agus
Salim Stadium in Padang and they comfortably overcame their Singaporean
opponents 3-1. Their prolific Liberian striker Edward Wilson Junior had given
them a lead on 19 minutes before Vendry Moro doubled it on the half hour mark.
In many cases the group stage games attract low crowds as Asian
club football has yet to really make any inroads domestically in a number of
markets but the Padang fans turned out in force for this game, just shy of
10,000, and despite Inui Tatsuro pulling a goal back for the Warriors just
before half time the home support saw a late third by substitute Nur Iskander
to boost their goal difference.
Until a couple of seasons ago Warriors were the dominant
force in Singapore but they are very much a team in transition now with only
Daniel Bennett remaining from those heady days. But you can only play what is
in front of you and Padang would have been happy with the result coming as it
did at the start of the season for them.
Next up they travelled to Pune in India to take on Churchill
Brothers. A long, daunting trip perhaps and a tricky one for Indonesian clubs
in the past who have certainly struggled on the road in this competition. But
Semen Padang, able to call on the vast experience of former international Elie
Aiboy, again turned in a very professional performance managing to return home
with a point.
The home team had taken the lead on 21 minutes through Sunil
Chhetri but the side from West Sumatra responded well with man of the match Hendra
Adi Bayauw equalizing on 36 minutes and M Rizal giving them lead just moments
before half time.
Bikramajit Singh pulled level for the home team 12 minutes
into the second half but Semen Padang held on for a useful point.
What was more remarkable about their performance was it had
been achieved without Wilson and their other foreign players.
The result puts Semen Padang second in the group on four
points, two behind Kitchee who have a 100% record having defeated Churchill
Borthers (3-0) and Warriors (4-2) in their opening games setting up very nicely
the meeting in Hong Kong on 2nd April between the two teams.
While Semen Padang can look back on a couple of impressive
results Persibo Bojonegoro, who won the Indonesia Cup last season, will be
having very different emotions.
They lost their opening group game 3-0 away to Yangon United
and it is perhaps an indication of how things can get in Indonesia when they
were only able to select a single substitute for the game.
At least they felt they could draw some comfort from the
knowledge they had their next two games, against New Radiant from the Maldives
and Sunray Cave JC Sun Hei (Hong Kong) at home. Well, at the Manahan Stadium in
Solo to be precise after the AFC deemed their own stadium not up to scratch.
The Maldives are best known as a string of islands in the
Indian Ocean with clichéd sandy beaches, clear azure waters and a propensity to
sink if global warming really takes a hold. They are not known for football.
This time Persibo were marginally better prepared than their
debacle in Myanmar. At least they could have five players on the bench, two
short of the regulation seven and one less than their visitors but nobody could
have predicted what would have happened on the field.
Unlike the Semen Padang fans who turned out in large numbers
for their home game, Persibo’s support preferred to stay home with just 700
fans in the stadium which was just as well. They were spared humiliation.
The visitors were 2-0 inside 34 minutes but they were just
warming up. As the rain fell down in Solo at the start of the second half New
Radiant went for the jugular scoring five goals in an electric 30 minute spell
rounding the game off with a 7-0 massacre, Ashfaq Ali netting five of them.
Persibo’s sorry afternoon was complete when Edy Gunawan was
red carded on 77 minutes.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out their
campaign is over. They face Sun Hei in the next group stage game in Solo with
the Hong Kong side also looking for their first point in the group. But Persibo
need to make serious inroads into that goal difference that currently stands at
minus 10 and that looks highly unlikely.
SOURCE - my Jakarta Globe column (not available on line)