Competitive football has officially returned to Indonesia as the 2021 Menpora Cup, the prelude to the upcoming 2021 Liga 1 Indonesia season, raised its curtains on Sunday. Arema FC took on Persikabo 1973 (formerly PS TIRA-Persikabo) at the Manahan Stadium in Solo, Central Java in the tournament’s opening match, with the two Group A sides playing out a 1-1 draw.
Malang Regency-based Arema started off the match on the wrong footing as Persikabo managed to take the lead in the 11th minute, thanks to former Singo Edan player Ahmad Nufiandani. Nufiandani, who represented Arema in 2015-16, opened the scoring after he had managed to take advantage of a skirmish in front of the Arema goal following an indirect free-kick from Wawan Febrianto, the 25-year old blasting home from close-range that went past Arema goalkeeper Teguh Amiruddin.
With the advantage now theirs, the Laskar Padjajaran became more confident in assaulting the Arema defense, with the Singo Edan defenders working hard to thwart any effort from Persikabo to double their lead. Arema also pushed men forward in search for an equalizer, however Persikabo were also disciplined in their defense. Kuncoro’s Singo Edan were forced to rely on counters as Bogor Regency-based Persikabo assumed control of the game with their quick passing and long balls.
Arema’s determination in chasing for an equalizer paid off in the 82nd minute underneath bizarre circumstances. Persikabo midfielder Ghufroni Al-Maruf had intended to clear the ball away from his side’s penalty area, however the ball struck Arema’s veteran winger Dendi Santoso on the head, resulting in the ball being ricocheted spectacularly into Syahrul Fadil’s goal for the equalizer.
No further goals were scored afterwards and both Arema and Persikabo were forced to share the spoils as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Sunday’s other Group A match saw PSIS Semarang blowing away a 3-goal lead as they were forced to a 3-3 draw by Barito Putera in an exciting and exhilarating game at the Manahan.
Matchweek 1 of the Menpora Cup continues on Monday with the first matches of Group B, with Bhayangkara Solo FC taking on Borneo FC in the early kick-off and afterwards Persija Jakarta facing-off against PSM Makassar, with both matches being played at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Kepanjen, Malang Regency, East Java.