Mon, 22 Mar 1999

Persebaya through to soccer league semifinal

JAKARTA (JP): Persebaya Surabaya earned itself a semifinal berth on Sunday, earning seven points to top Group 1 after defeating Persikota Tangerang in the Indonesian Soccer League (Ligina) playoffs at Senayan sports stadium.

Persikota and Pelita Bakrie, which played to a scoreless draw with PSMS Medan in the first match of Group II on Sunday, narrowed their chances to top the group lists. Persikota and Pelita earned one and two points respectively.

Persikota striker Komang Mariawan converted the first goal in the 20th minute after putting Persebaya players under unrelenting pressure as they fought under a downpour.

Persebaya striker Eri Irianto countered in the 37th minute through a free kick.

In front of about 30,000 fervent supporters who have acquired the dubious nickname bonek for their activities, Persebaya earned the winning goal in the 42nd minute when defender Yoseph Lewono drove the ball out of reach of Komang and into the penalty box.

"We are very grateful because we won this game, although our heart was pounding from anxiety," said the team's coach Rusdy Bahalwan. "We were bombarded by Persikota's attacks but luckily we had a good defense. Persikota performs so well that we had to earn the goal through a long shot."

Rusdy said his players were forced to use any opportunities for long shots from outside the penalty area because it was the best strategy, particularly on the slippery surface.

Persikota's coach Sultan Harhara said he was proud of his team's performance despite their elimination from semifinal contention.

"We already knew that Persebaya's strong point was its long shooting. All the players were involved in a heated argument after Persebaya's first goal and this caused them to lose their cohesiveness. As a result, we failed to block Yoseph and Persebaya got its second goal."

Persebaya and Persikota each have one more match to play. Persebaya will face PSIS Semarang on Thursday and Persikota will meet Petrokimia Putra on Wednesday.

In Group II, Pelita was unable to tame the strength of PSMS and could not capitalize on its opportunities.

"This game determined our fate. We had to win to enter the semifinal. Our players have done their best but could not compete with the PSMS players. That's all we could do," said Pelita's coach Danurwindo.

He said his players lost control in the first half because they were under intense pressure, a fact acknowledged later by captain Bima Sakti.

PSMS manager Isman Nuriadi said both teams performed well under the circumstances.

"Our players had never set foot in Senayan stadium. We are glad that we could compete with a team as famous as Pelita. Although both teams played tough, they maintained their sportsmanship," he said.

PSMS has five points from one win and two draws from three games.

He said they would have to win their last match against PSM Ujungpandang on Thursday for a ticket to the semifinal.

Monday is a rest day for the teams. Tuesday's matches will pit PSIS Semarang against Semen Padang and PSM against Persija. (ivy)

Results: Pelita Bakrie 0 PSMS Medan 0 Persikota Tangerang 1 Persebaya Surabaya 2