Fri, 14 Jul 2000

Persija, Persikota and Pupuk Kaltim advance to semis

JAKARTA (JP): Three clubs -- Persija, Persikota Tangerang and Pupuk Kaltim (PKT) of Samarinda, East Kalimantan -- clinched the semifinal tickets of the Bank Mandiri national soccer league in dramatic but controversial matches Monday.

They are accompanying PSM Makasar, which ensured its semifinal ticket earlier.

Home favorite Persija tied with Persikota 1-1 in the Group A round-robin match at the Senayan Stadium, just one hour after PKT beat PSMS Medan 2-1 in Group B's match at the Mattoangin Stadium in Makassar.

PSM defeated Persijatim of East Jakarta 4-2 to top the group's standings with nine points.

Arema Malang, which made a good start Sunday, unexpectedly lost its fighting spirit after midfielder Sunardi made an own goal in the 31st minute. It failed to rebound and bowed out to Pelita Solo 0-3. Pelita's Indriyanto Nugroho made two consolation goals in the 47th and 79th minutes.

There was no arrangement on the second match result between Pelita and Persikota but both teams seemingly knew they only needed to draw to send home Arema.

Group A winner Persikota will now face Group B's runner-up, PKT, while Persija is set to challenge PSM in the semifinals.

Persikota's striker Saphou Lassy of Cameron opened the victory for his club in the 39th minute but Persija's midfielder and captain Ali Sunan equalized in the 50th minute.

Persikota's coach Sutan Harhara said he was surprised after the draw result, which pushed the club to the top position.

"I thanked God for this victory. The players were motivated by their underdog position. But I didn't instruct my players to perform leisurely against Persija, as it is better for us to win," he said.

Sutan also said he would rather meet PKT than PSM in the semis. "PKT is one of the good teams but PSM is a mighty club coached by Henk Wullems, who is much more experienced than I am."

Arema's coach M. Basri blamed the team's loss on the tight schedule and the own goal.

"Maybe our players were not ready to play three matches in six days. I hope next time the organizers arrange the schedule based on competing teams' achievements instead of on commercial reasons.

"The team made so many mistakes today. We lost balls many times and easily allowed Pelita's players to make goals," said Basri, who failed to hide his tears.

In Makassar, Persijatim led first thanks to striker Agus Santiko's goal in the 26th minute. But Brazilian Christiano de Oliviera equalized in the 30th minute.

PSM's striker Miro Baldo Bento allowed his team to lead in the 32nd minute but Persijatim's top midfielder Michael Pao manage to equalize in the 53rd.

PSM intensified its attack and finally top striker Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto sealed the team's victory with two goals in the 58th and 71st.

In the second match, PKT's defender Firdaus Nyong kicked the first goal in the first half and was equalized by PSMS' striker Ariel Guitterez in the 75th minute. Striker Mansyur took the deciding goal for PKT in the 88th minute.

PSMS coach Suimin Diharjo could not hide his tears after the defeat. "I quit my coaching job. I failed to bring the team to the semifinals," he told reporters. (27/ivy)