PS Sleman kept their hopes of qualifying into the 2021 Menpora Cup quarterfinal alive after edging out fellow Group C strugglers Persik Kediri 1-0 at the Si Jalak Harupat Stadium on Thursday. The win was PSS’ first three points of the Menpora Cup campaign and this moved them up to third in the Group C table, equal on points with 2nd placed Madura United who were held to a 1-1 draw by Persela Lamongan in Thursday’s late kick-off.
The Super Elja had previously lost their first Menpora Cup game 2-1 at the hands of Madura United before drawing their Matchweek 2 game 0-0 with Persela, thus placing Dejan Antonic’s men in a precarious position coming into Thursday’s Matchweek 3 action. Unlike the other three groups in the Menpora Cup, Group C is contested between five teams and thus Matchweek 3 represents the mid-way point of the group, with Persik only having played their Matchweek 1 game as they had the entirety of Matchweek 2 off. The Macan Putih had also suffered defeat in Matchweek 1, being beaten 2-1 by Persebaya Surabaya, and they were eager to get their campaign up and running with a win over PSS.
The first few minutes of the first half was a close and cagey affair for both sides, with Persik threatening Adi Satryo in the PSS goal through Ahmad Agung in the 2nd minute before the Super Elja retaliated shortly afterwards through an Irfan Jaya chance that was blocked by the Persik defense.
PSS then drew first blood in the 11th minute, when a short pass from Irfan was met by a venomous strike from Nicolas Velez. Persik goalkeeper Dikri Yusron was powerless to stop the Argentine’s shot from penetrating his defenses as PSS went 1-0 up.
Immediately Persik pressed on for the equalizer. The Macan Putih created chances upon chances, with the likes of Vava Mario Yagalo, Faris Aditama, and 42nd minute substitute Hariyanto Panto struggling to break down the PSS defense which was marshaled by Aaron Evans, Arthur Irawan, captain Asyraq Ghufron, and Mario Maslac. Things also got heated at the end of the first half when former FK Akademija Pandev defender Maslac got himself into an altercation with naturalized Nigerian-born Persik defender OK John, with both players being let off the hook by the referee.
Hostilities between the two sides continue into the second half, with Ahmad landing a sharp elbow onto Kim Jeffrey Kurniawan’s face in the 51st minute. Ahmad, who had already received a booking from the referee, was promptly sent off for his foul.
Despite playing with only 10 men, Persik continued to press on as they chased for that all-important equalizer. Faris and Eko Jayanto were unable to find any gaps within the PSS back-line, while Arsyad Yusgiantoro almost doubled PSS’ lead only for Persik captain Andri Ibo to thwart his efforts.
In the end no further goals were scored and PSS finished the match as 1-0 winners. Defeat meant that Persik are teetering closer towards elimination from the Menpora Cup and they have to be flawless in their two remaining matches if they want to have a chance of qualifying into the quarterfinal.
With Group C leaders Persebaya taking a well-needed rest in Matchweek 3, Madura United took on Persela at the Si Jalak Harupat with the Laskar Sapeh Kerrab hoping to dethrone the Bajul Ijo at least for the time being. However Rahmad Darmawan’s charges were forced to a 1-1 draw by the Laskar Joko Tingkir, with Bruno Lopes’ 23rd minute opener being cancelled out by Persela’s Akbar in the 26th minute.
There’s more Menpora Cup action on Friday as Matchweek 3 continues with Group D at the Maguwoharjo Stadium, with Bali United taking on Persita Tangerang in the early kick-off before the late match sees Persib Bandung locking horns with Persiraja Banda Aceh.