Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Jakarta Globe Column

While Muang Thong United and Chonburi may have eased past AFC Champions League play off opponents on home turf, when it comes to jumping on an airplane they seem to leave their scoring boots behind.

Chonburi were turned over 4-0 by Beijing Guoan in China while Muang Thong United were unable to hold on to a 22nd minute lead given to them by Mario Durovski and went down 2-1 to Melbourne Victory and suffered the ignominy of having Datsakorn Thonglao red carded in injury time.
They will have no time to reflect on their disappointment as the Thai Premier League kicks off this weekend. Champions Buriram United host Songkla United, Muang Thong entertain Chainat while Chonburi take on Police.

The eruption from Mount Kelud in East Java has had repercussions on the Indonesia Super League. Following their 1-0 win over Persita Tangerang, unbeaten western conference leaders Arema were stranded at the airport as all flights to their home base of Malang were cancelled due to layers of volcanic ash on the runway.

They eventually made it home after flying to Bali and going overland from there!

Champions Persipura Jayapura continued their strange start to the season with a 2-2 draw away to Putra Samarinda in East Kalimantan. Gerald Pangkali gave the visitors the lead on 16 minutes but prolific striker Ilija Spasojevic leveled just before half time from the penalty spot.

Sultan Samma gave the home team the lead eight minutes into the second half before the long serving Cameroonian defender, Paulin Pierre Bio saved a point for the Black Pearls with 10 minutes remaining. 

The draw was enough to keep them top of the table despite winning just one of their opening four games.

Their spell in the top spot of the eastern conference lasted just 24 hours as Mitra Kukar defeated Perseru Seru 1-0 with a goal from Eric Weeks Lewis to move a point clear.

The last couple of seasons have seen Semen Padang pretty much all one their own in the weakened Premier League. There was little in the way of competition and they even found time for a run to the quarter finals of the AFC Cup suggesting the team could do a job in a stronger league.

Now they are playing in the ISL and thus far their season hadn’t been much to write home about, defeating Barito Putera 2-0 and losing to Persija Jakarta by the same score in Jakarta.

With Persib Bandung enjoying their traditional good start to the season not many people would have predicted an away win.

The Jalak Harupat Stadium can be an intimidating venue at the best of times but it seems the men from West Sumatra were unperturbed and went into an early lead through Esteban. An own goal from Supardi doubled the lead and despite a last minute goal from Djibril Coulibily, they held on for a momentous victory.

In Monday’s game there was an emotional return to first team action for Bambang Pamungaks. Only tis time he wasn’t lining up for Persija but against them. Bepe took the field for his new team, Pelita Bandung Raya and scored twice in the 2-2 draw to keep PBR’s fine start to the season on track.

Unfortunately there were reports of isolated violence in and around the stadium as a small band of travelling Persija fans were attacked with rocks. Later this week, Persija return to the same stadium to take on Persib and it is certain there won’t be any away fans then.

In Malaysia, big spenders Johor Darul Takzim crushed Selangor 4-1. Forget the former World Cup star Pablo Aimar, this game was all about a couple of internationals from a more humble background.

Goals from Baihakki Khaizan and Hariss Harun, Singapore internationals both, gave JDT a 2-0 lead in the first half hour and the big spenders from the southern tip of the Asian mainland went on to defeat Selangor 4-1.

The result keeps JDT comfortably mid table but Baihakki was uncomfortably aware the defence needed more time to gel.

We realize that we still haven’t got that grip within one another. Also knowing that the expectation level is really high, demanding top quality performance every game. I think that’s where it frazed us a little’.

The former Geylang United, Persija, Persib and LionsXII defender said the seeds of the win had been planted in the last game.

‘It started with the 3-1 home win against Kedah in the FA cup and it went on again against Selangor. That is what we have been searching for, something that could rise the confidence level of the whole team and everybody realize it’s all about togetherness and working hard each and every game.’

Selangor coach Mehmet Durakovic will rue the opportunity spurned to go top but will also recognize the team remain just one point off the lead. 

Perhaps of greater concern to the former Australian international will the lack of goals contributed by the team. So far, Paolo Rangel has hit six of Selangor’s seven league goals this campaign.

Terengganu moved top of the heap with 10 points after defeating Pahang 2-0 with a brace from Mario Karlovic while Kelantan and Sarawak joined Selangor on nine points behind the leaders.

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