Asia AFC Cup

9-Men PSM Through to AFC Cup Group Stages

Krishna Sadhana

Football Tribe SEA Editor


Liga 1 Indonesia giants PSM Makassar are through to the 2020 AFC Cup group stages after disposing of Timor-Leste’s Lalenok United 3-1 (7-2 on aggregate) at the Pakansari Stadium yesterday. However, the Juku Eja’s victory was marred by two red cards given to their players, forcing Bojan Hodak’s men to finish the match with 9 men.

Last week, a Ferdinand Sinaga hat-trick brought PSM to a crushing 4-1 first-leg victory over Lalenok at the Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium in Gianyar, Bali and the 2018-19 Piala Indonesia champions are looking to get some insurance in yesterday’s second-leg in Cibinong, Bogor Regency. Taking on the 2019 LFA Primeira Divisao champions once again, Bojan deployed his strongest lineup which included new signings in former PKNP and Petaling Jaya City striker Giancarlo, former Perak FA center-back Hussein El Dor, and former Persebaya Surabaya goalkeeper Miswar Saputra. First-team regulars from last season such as captain Wiljan Pluim, first-leg hat-trick hero Sinaga, and Rizky Pellu were also included, however, like in the first-leg, influential midfielder Marc Klok was missing due to injury, amidst rumors that the 26-year old Dutchman would move to Liga 1 rivals Persija Jakarta.

PSM went into high octane right after the referee blew for kick-off, and although Rizky saw his shot in the 4th minute saved by the Lalenok keeper, there was no saving Giancarlo’s effort 5 minutes into the match. The Brazilian striker, who had also scored in the first-leg, took advantage of a lob pass given to him by Pluim, rounding off an excellent PSM counterattacking scheme with the opening goal of the match. PSM kept on the pressure and they soon doubled their lead in the 29th minute. Once again it was Pluim who created the goal, whose movement with the ball startled the Lalenok defenders and allowed Sinaga to head in home PSM’s second goal of the game.

In the 32nd minute controversy reared its ugly head after Pluim was sent off by the referee. The Dutchman had initially received a yellow card, however, Pluim’s protests were deemed excessive by the referee which forced him to brandish Pluim a red card and with it his marching orders. PSM did well to maintain their lead though and ended the first 45 minutes with a healthy 2-0 lead.

Controversy once again struck in the 58th minute. PSM midfielder Muhammad Arfan had fouled a Lalenok player quite harshly with both feet, forcing the referee to show the 21-year old player a straight red. Seeing that their opponents are down to 9 men, Lalenok immediately seized advantage and halved the deficit through Fransisco da Costa in the 60th minute.

With their 2-goal advantage being slashed down to one, PSM soon recomposed themselves and kept on piling the pressure on their Timorese opponents. It paid off in the 84th minute, as Irsyad Maulana, a new signing from recently relegated Semen Padang, scored his first goal for PSM. Defender Zulkifli Syukur was the provider as his accurate pass allowed Irsyad to seal the result for PSM.

With the 3-1 win on the day and the 7-2 win on aggregate, PSM have booked themselves a return to the AFC Cup group stages, having made an appearance there last season. The Juku Eja will be in Group H, alongside 2019 Singapore Premier League runners-up Tampines Rovers, 2019 Myanmar National League champions Shan United, and a familiar foe in 2019 Philippines Football League runners-up Kaya-Iloilo.

Also qualified to the 2020 AFC Cup group stages through the play-offs alongside PSM are 2019 C-League champions Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng, who defeated 2019 Lao Premier League runners-up Master 7 FC 7-1 on aggregate, and 2019 General Aung San Shield winners Yangon United, who crushed Bruneian side Indera SC 9-2 on aggregate.