Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Bhayangkara, Bali United Fight To The Wire
With six games remaining what better time to have a look at Indonesia's title run in and see what challenges lie ahead of the main contenders Bhayangkara and Bali United.
First let's remind ourselves of how things stand at the top of Liga 1.
1 - Bhayangkara 28 19 2 7 51-33 59
2 - Bali United 28 17 4 7 64-31 55
Bhayangkara's remaining games (Home games in bold)
15/10 Barito Putera
23/10 Madura United
03/11 Mitra Kukar
Bali United's remaining games
20/10 PS TNI
25/10 Barito Putera
12/11 Gresik United
The first thing that strikes me are the final home games of the season for both teams. No one seems to have realised the rest of the world plays the last round of fixtures on one day but in theory Bali United could have 48 hours to prepare for a game knowing exactly what they need to do. Beyond the psychological aspect there are the opponents. Let's face it, who would you rather face in a titke decider, Persija or Gresik?
Bhayangkara have the tougher run in with PSM at home and a tricky trip to Madura United before that final game against Persija. Bali United, meanwhile, won't relish trips to Persiba and PSM.
The advantage is with Simon McMenemy's men. They have that four point cushion after all. But Bali United have a superior goal difference and in Sylvano Comvalius they have a man in form, 30 goals in 28 games. Then again Bhayangkara, for all their efforts in promoting young players, have signed Ilija Spasojevic, for me one of the best foreign players on the region.
Bali United have the glamour, the brand of an island known around the world and a swashbuckling style of play that relies heavily on the likes of Irfan Bachdim, Comvalius, Nick van der Velden.
On the other hand Bhayangkara carry the baggage of being known as a police backed team lacking its own fan base beyond men in uniform having a day out. But that is to do the squad a disservice. Where Bali's core learned their trade overseas, Bhayangkara boast a promising young Indonesian spine with Awan Raharjo, Putu Gede, Evan Dimas, nine goal Ilham Udin and Dendi Sulistiyawan providing youthful exubarance alongside old timers Firman Utina, Otavio Dutra, Paulo Sergio and Spasojevic.
With both teams coached by promising young men, McMenemy and Widodo Putra we are witnessing a thrilling climax to what has on many other levels been a disappointing season full of controversy and hissy fits. Who will end up lifting the Liga 1 title at the end? I don't know and to be honest I don't mind. I just hope whoever is crowned champions it is for football reasons.