Confusion and controversy has descended upon Indonesia after Bhayangkara FC celebrated “winning” the Liga 1 title even though it has not been officially confirmed yet.
The drama began on Wednesday morning when it was announced that Bhayangkara had been awarded a 3-0 win from last Friday’s 1-1 draw with Mitra Kukar, after the latter were penalised for fielding an ineligible player.
With the two additional points, Bhayangkara moved level on points with previous leaders Bali United and – following a 3-1 win over Madura United later on Wednesday – claimed a three-point lead at the summit.
Tigor Shalom (COO PT. LIB) :
"Still not champions yet, there is still a process that we wait between Mitra Kukar and Bhayangkara, therefore the decision has not yet fixed. Mitra Kukar still can appeal and we'll wait seven days after the decision release" pic.twitter.com/NGWahMzdfw
— footballIndonesia (@footballindnews) November 8, 2017
As the first differentiating criteria for teams tied on points is head-to-head record and with only one round left in the season, there is no way Bali can reclaim top spot if the decision stands.
However, Mitra Kukar have the option of lodging an appeal and, as a result, the league is yet to officially confirm Bhayangkara’s title triumph as it awaits a decision from the penalised club.
Ridiculous,, the sanction for Sissoko was released on Oct 28. Mitra Kukar v Bhayangkara was on Nov 3. How come nobody knew that Sissoko was ineligible to play? This could be
a) The letter was not properly (immediately) distributed
b) The league authority failed to update the info
— Pramuaji Ajay (@PramuajiAjay) November 8, 2017
Yet, it did not stop Bhayangkara from celebrating wildly at the final whistle and declaring themselves as champions in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s win.
Following a goalless first half at the Pamekasan Stadium, the deadlock was broken four minutes after the break when Ilija Spasojevic reacted quickest to fire home on the rebound, after an attempted clearance from Munhar had come crashing back off the bar.
Spasojevic then doubled his and his side’s tally in the 67th minute when a determined run saw him force his way past two defenders, recover after taking a fall before emphatically curling a shot into the far corner.
Rizky Dwi Febriyanto managed to pull one back for Madura two minutes later, meeting a right-wing delivery with a terrific glancing header past Awan Setho.
But, four minutes into injury-time, the visitors caught the opposition defence completely exposed and Evan Dimas unselfishly laid the ball off for Spasojevic to complete his hat-trick with a neat finish.
The saga is likely to continue in the coming days as the inaugural Liga 1 campaign comes to an exciting finish, albeit due to off-the-field drama rather than on it.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s other fixture saw Persib Bandung’s miserable season continue with a 2-1 loss to Borneo.
Widely tipped to be genuine title contenders at the start of the season, Persib are currently languishing in 12th position and could finish the campaign a massive 20 points off the pace.
It was Borneo who drew first blood at the Mulawarman Stadium in first-half stoppage time; Patrich Wanggai finding space down the left and beating the opposition keeper with a deflected effort.
Eight minutes after the restart, Lerby Eliandry made it 2-0 when he latched onto an over-the-top pass and unleashed an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.
Billy Keraf reduced the deficit in the 72nd minute with a fine individual effort but it proved to be a mere consolation, as Borneo held out to condemn Persib to their 9th defeat of the season.
Photo credit: Go-Jek Traveloka Liga 1