Analysis: Song strikes the right chords but Persija remain hopeful
Singapore: Home United claimed a 3-2 victory over Persija Jakarta in the first leg of the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal semi-finals on Tuesday, but the Indonesian side will be confident that they can overcome the deficit next week.
Persija’s last trip to Singapore just two weeks ago resulted in a 4-2 victory over Tampines Rovers, but this time round at they found themselves two down inside 10 minutes and, despite dominating much of the game, returned to the Indonesian capital in need of another strong performance at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
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Misfortune at the back
Prior to the game, Persija had found the back of the net with regularity, scoring 13 goals since a 3-0 opening-day defeat to Johor Darul Ta’zim in Malaysia. Their defence had also remained strong in that time, conceding just three in five games; however, luck was not on their side in Singapore.
The first bit of misfortune came inside two minutes when Shahril Ishak’s cross from the right was headed into his own net by Maman Abdurrahman. With Faritz Hameed waiting behind him, the defender was attempting to head the ball out for a corner, only to see it fly past goalkeeper Rizky Darmawan.
Before the 10-minute mark the hosts were two goals up. Ismed Sofyan’s misplaced pass near the halfway line handed Home United possession and, when Song Ui-young broke through (pictured above), Vava Yagalo was unlucky to lose his footing at the vital time to allow the Korean to close in on goal for his side's second.
Persija then controlled much of the contest, had more shots on goal and deservedly leveled the scores, but were caught out by a speculative shot from distance. When Hafiz Nor turned 30 yards from goal there seemed little danger, but his long-range effort was misjudged by Darmawan as the hosts sealed a 3-2 victory.
The visitors’ defence may rue their misfortune but Home United’s top scorer Song came out firing from the off. The forward started the move for the opening goal, showing excellent awareness of his teammate Ishak's position to lay the ball wide for midfielder to cross.
Song was again superb for the second goal, bursting forward from the centre of the park and gliding past Abdurrahman before having the strength to hold off Sofyan and the composure to slot the ball into the bottom corner as he fell to ground.
The forward, a constant menace in the opposition half, had the most shots on his team (3), the second highest number of touches (54) and a passing accuracy (shown above) of over 81 percent. Having scored in six of his side’s seven games, he is undoubtedly their star man.
Room for optimism for Persija
The result may not have been to Persija’s liking, but they will return to the Indonesian capital full of hope that they have what it takes to overcome the deficit. The visitors found a successful way past the Home United defence as they were able to exploit their weakness at defending corners.
Moments after Yagalo had headed just over from a corner from the right, Ramdhani Lestaluhu found space in the box head home Riko Simanjuntak’s corner from the left. The same players (shown below, left) then combined for Persija’s second goal as the hosts showed their frailty in defending deliveries from wide.
Home United will need to improve from set pieces in Jakarta, where Persija have been formidable. The Indonesian side have been roared on by record AFC Cup crowds and the tournament’s joint top scorer Marko Simic has scored seven of his eight goal at home; their Singaporean opponents remain a long way from a second successive ASEAN Zonal final.
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