Football Tribe Indonesia
With four games to go in the 2019 Liga 1 season, league leaders Bali United managed to clinch their maiden Liga 1 title after a routine 2-0 win over Semen Padang at the Haji Agus Salim Stadium in Padang, a result that also jeopardizes Semen Padang’s survival chances in the league.
With the threat of relegation looming over them, Semen Padang were determined to get three important points in front of their home support against the league leaders. They gave Bali United a run for their money, holding them to a goal-less draw in the first half, however in the second half Serdadu Tridatu showed their worth as champions elect. Montenegrin-born striker Ilija Spasojević once again became Bali United’s main man in front of goal, heading his team into the lead after receiving a headed assist from Yabes Roni in the 51st minute. Five minutes before full time, Spasojević sealed the three points and with it the title with the simplest of tap-ins, converting Paulo Sérgio’s pass into an easy shot towards the goal.
Bali United’s title was confirmed after their closest rivals, Borneo FC, were unable to win away at the Andi Mattalata Stadium in Makassar. Taking on hosts PSM Makassar, Pesut Etam were held to a 2-2 draw. The solitary point meant that not only Borneo’s title chances were evaporated, they were also dethroned from the runners-up spot after Persipura Jayapura won 2-0 against PSIS Semarang on Wednesday. Relegation battlers Persela Lamongan prolonged their survival chances after a shock 2-0 away win at Persib Bandung.
Sitting 15th with 34 points, Persela are still mathematically unsafe since the three teams in the relegation zone are in a realistic reaching distance behind Laskar Joko Tingkir. Both Perseru Badak Lampung and Kalteng Putra have 30 points from 30 games, while basement-dwellers Semen Padang have 28.
Since the inauguration of the Liga 1 in 2017, Bali United became the earliest champions of the league in its three seasons, as both Bhayangkara FC in 2017 and Persija Jakarta in 2018 had to wait until the last matchday for their titles to be confirmed. Bali United’s triumph meant that a few of their players have collected their second Liga 1 title, with Gunawan Dwi Cahyo, Michael Orah, and Anan Lestaluhu having won the title with Persija in 2018, and both Paulo and Spasojević having won the title with Bhayangkara in 2017.
The 2019 Liga 1 triumph meant that Bali United head coach Stefano Cugurra Teco became the first head coach to win back-to-back Liga 1 titles, having guided Persija to their first title in 17 years last season. Underneath the stewardship of the former Chiangrai United, Osotspa Samut Prakan, and Royal Thai Navy FC boss, Bali United became the best team of Indonesia in only their 4th year of existence.
Four games remain in the Liga 1 season and Bali United are on course to break another record, that is being the team with the highest amount of points won in the league. Bhayangkara with 68 points in 2017 are the current record holders and with the 65 points that they have right now, Bali United would only need to win their next game against Persipura to equal that record.
A crucial part of Bali United’s success this season is their home record. The Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium in Gianyar has become a fortress underneath Teco’s leadership, having yet to lose a league game there all season. Bali United also boast an incredible defense, having conceded only 28 goals this season. This is significantly better than the Bhayangkara defense of 2017 that conceded 40 goals en route to the title and the Persija defense of 2018 who shipped in 36 goals all-season long, a testament that Bali United’s iron defense is just as vital as their deadly attack this season, a trait that all good champions in football must have.