AFC Cup 2019: 5 talking points as Persija Jakarta are held to a goalless draw by Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong

Persija Jakarta Becamex

Indonesia Liga 1 champions Persija Jakarta began their AFC Cup 2019 campaign with a goalless draw against Vietnamese club Becamex Binh Duong at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Persija did not look all the very impressive in the 90 minutes of action in Group G of the continental championship, and could have even suffered a shock defeat had Binh Duong converted one of the several chances that fell for them in the second half.

Here, we take a look at the five key talking points from the game.

1) Debut for Escobar, but Paulle starts on the bench

There was a debut for Perisja’s new striker Sílvio Escobar as he led the line for the Kemayoran Tigers in their AFC Cup 2019 opener. The striker was brought in as an emergency replacement for Croatian striker Marko Simic who was held in Australia after an alleged sexual assault charge during the team’s trip to face Newcastle Jets in the AFC Champions League 2019 qualifiers.

However, the striker did not have a debut to remember as he failed to work the Vietnamese goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong and will be looking to be more influential in the games to come! And he will need to fire quickly in order to maintain his place in the starting 11 once Simic is back. Meanwhile, French defender Steven Paulle, who was also added to strengthen the squad ahead of the game, made his debut from the bench in the 88th minute of the game.

2) A drab first half under sweltering heat! 

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The kick-off for the game was moved to 4.30 PM HKT from 7.30 PM HKT in the eleventh hour, and playing under the heat of the Jakarta sun seemed to have slowed down the proceedings at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. The first half saw little going for either teams. Rico Simanjuntak and Heri Susanto were active on either flanks, but failed to create much openings.

Meanwhile, the hosts’ Bruno de Matos was getting on the ball, was forced to withdraw away from the goal because of some disciplined defending from Becamex Binh Duong. There was a penalty shout when Sy Giap produced a challenge inside the box in the 20th minute, but other than that, none of the sides were able to create much clear cut chances in the first 45 minutes.

3) Binh Duong the happier team heading into the interval

It all meant that Tran Min Chien’s boys were the happier of the lot going into the lime break. The Gelora Bung Karno is never an easy stadium to visit for an opposing team, and to do that with 30,000 plus of Jakmania in there is an even tougher task.

But Binh Duong weren’t bogged down by the pressure of a partisan crowd and did exactly what their coach had demanded of them. The Binh Duong backline were on the top of their game denying the Persija attackers any room throughout the 90 minutes leaving the Indonesians to try their luck from distance on many occasions. All in all, a solid job on the day by the Vietnam club’s defence!

4) Persija lucky to escape with a draw? 

Persija went into the game looking for all three points .But you could say that the Indonesian club, in the end, were lucky to get at least a point out of their opening fixture in the AFC Cup. Though it was the Jakarta-based side who began the second half brightly, the visitors grew into the game as the half progressed.

Former United States youth international Victor Mansaray threatened to give Becamex the lead when he let fly in the 78th minute, but Persija custodian  Andritany Ardhiyasa was there to keep his side in the game. Vietnam’s veteran striker Nguyen Anh Duc, coming on as a second half substitute, also went close to giving his side the lead in the dying moments of the game!

5) What next for the Kemayoran Tigers?

Having conceded an unexpected draw in the opener, the pressure will grow on Ivan Kolev if his side does not fire on all cylinder in the AFC Cup and soon! They will now travel to Myanmar to face Shan United on March 12. It is another game that they will be expected to win, but as Tuesday’s game proved, it won’t be easy and that too away from home.

With their third group match also coming on the road against Ceres-Negros FC of Philippines early next month, the way in which Persija respond to this mini setback will go a long way in deciding the fortunes of the Indonesian champions in the continental championship.