Persipura Jayapura missed out on a chance to extend its lead in the Indonesian Super League title race, as the Papuan club drew 1-1 with host Persija Jakarta on Thursday.
Persija forward Agu Casmir’s goal three minutes before full time cancelled out Titus Bonai’s strike in the 49th minute, but it didn’t prevent the capital club from dropping in the standings.
Persipura stayed top with 41 points, followed by Semen Padang with 35 and Persija third with 33.
Semen Padang moved into second place after a 3-0 rout of Persijap Jepara on Wednesday.
While the top three clubs were busy on the pitch, defending champion Arema Indonesia was busy dealing with another threat of a players’ strike.
Online news portal Tempointeraktif reported that Arema players did not attend practice in Malang, East Java, on Thursday allegedly to protest the team management’s failure to pay their wages.
Arema coach Miroslav Janu was surprised to see that none of his players arrived at the team’s afternoon training session. The Crazy Lions are due to host Persib Bandung in an important league match today.
Arema, the reigning league champion, has been struggling financially this year.
Players have repeatedly threatened to boycott team activities until they were paid their full salaries, but until now Arema officials have managed to convince players to soften their stance by promising to fulfill their obligations.
No Arema official could be reached during press time to comment on the report.
At Jakarta’s Bung Karno Stadium, Persipura never let the hostile crowd affect its morale as it took control of the match.
Striker Boaz Solossa nearly put the Black Pearls ahead in the 30th minute, but his shot hit the post.
The visitors threatened again four minutes later, but Titus’s shot struck the woodwork.
Titus made amends at the restart as the 22-year-old, whose attitude problems cost him his slot in Indonesia’s Olympic qualifying team, skipped through the Persija defense and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Hendro Kartiko.
Persija coach Rahmad Darmawan sent on Bambang Pamungkas for defender Leo Saputra to add more firepower and the equalizer finally came in the 87th minute, when Singaporean striker Casmir headed in Ismed Sofyan’s corner.
Persipura coach Jacksen Tiago said he was satisfied with the draw, which was achieved despite the absence of regular starters Victor Igbonefo and Hamka Hamzah.
The two central defenders are serving a suspension because of yellow-card accumulation.
“I’m very grateful that we managed to take at least one point, especially because we played without Igbonefo and [Hamzah],” Tiago said.
“Persija made some changes after conceding a goal, and they put full pressure on our defense. Still, it’s a good result,” he said.