Wednesday, May 02, 2018
Struggling Arema Face Tough Surabaya Trip
With just three separating the top 10 clubs in Liga 1 after the opening six rounds it is fair to say the first few weeks of the new season have been pretty close. No team remains unbeaten, likewise no team is winless and even the bottom sides PSIS and Arema are just six points off top spot. Persipura, three time ISL champions, are a point clear of Persija, Madura United, PSM and Barito Putera but the Macan Kemayoran have a game in hand following the postponement of their high octane clash with Persib last week.
This weekend's fixtures sees Persija again take a back seat as they are given time off to prepare for their AFC Cup tie with Home United, an example of the upside thinking in Indonesian football where you may recall both Persija and Bali United were forced to compete in both the AFC Cup and the pre season competition President Cup.
The stand out game in Round seven sees the East Java giants Persebaya and Arema go toe to toe at the Bung Tomo Stadium in Surabaya. There are usually fireworks when these two meet and this weekend's game, their first in the top flight since god knows; the last few years have seen these clubs blighted by confusion over which club is the 'real' one, a hangover of the IPL days. Suffice to say the rivalry hasn't gone away and this week any motor vehicles in the Surabaya area with a Malang number plate are in for a torrid time.
Arema haven't started the season well and current;y sit 17th on goal difference ahead of newly promoted PSIS. The Crazy Lions are not the team they once were. The money seems to have dried up and many supporters have long since turned their back on the team. Just over 12,000 saw their opening game of the season against Mitra Kukar where the visitors came from 2-0 down to score twice in the last eight minutes and secure a point.
Two defeats on their travels followed, away to Persija and Borneo, before Persib came to Malang and this time the supporters did show up, more than 31,000 witnessed this clash between the 'Thine Enemy is Mine Enemy' Derby. This time it was the home team which escaped with a point following Balsa Bozovic's late equaliser but that didn't stop a mass pitch invasion as Arema fans invaded the pitch following a controversial decision. Riot police used tear gas to calm things down and unsurprisingly this only made things worse with several supporters receiving injuries and reports of fatalities.
The come back however hinted at a mental strength among the team and for their next game away to Madura United, another potentially tricky road trip, Arema set off feeling confident about their chances. With 24 minutes remaining they were leading 2-1 but Madura can be a fortress and the home side fought back to claim the points with two late goals leaving Arema bottom of the table and licking their wounds.
Just over 3,000 made the effort for the next home game against Persipura, a game that saw the Crazy Lions race into a three goal lead and run out 3-1 victors, inflicting the first loss of the season on the table topping Black Pearls with Dedik Setiawan netting twice.
It is too early to see whether a corner has been turned; it hasn't been an easy start to the season for Arema with tough away games and things aren't going to get any easier with Sunday's trip up the jalan tol to Surabaya. Despite boasting an experienced rearguard Arema have shipped 13 goals this season, the worst in the league. At the same time only Madura United have scored more goals. Coach Joko Susilo will be looking to the likes of Arthur Cunha and Yudi Purwoko to show all their experience in the cauldron like atmosphere at the Bung Tomo if Arema are to get anything out of the game