Southeast Asia Indonesia

Beni Oktovianto’s Late Equalizer Condemns Persipura to Relegation

A dramatic final matchweek of the 2021/22 Liga 1 Indonesia season unfolded on Thursday afternoon, with three teams – PSS Sleman, PS Barito Putera, and Persipura Jayapura – competing to avoid the final trapdoor to next season’s Liga 2. Astonishingly the trio managed to did well to avoid defeat in their final match of the season – PSS Sleman beating Persija Jakarta 2-0, Barito Putera forcing league runners-up Persib Bandung to a 1-1 draw, and Persipura crushing Persita Tangerang 3-0 – however Barito’s draw meant that it was them who stayed up at the expense of Persipura, with Indonesia’s most successful team succumbing to the drop.

The three matches involving the relegation candidates were all played at the same time to avoid any unsportsmanlike conduct and match-fixing attempts. Persija hosted PSS at the Ngurah Rai Stadium in downtown Denpasar, Barito took on Persib at the Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium in Gianyar, and Persipura answered Persita’s challenge at the Kompyang Sujana Stadium in Padangsambian, a suburban district in West Denpasar.

PSS drew first blood in the 4th minute after Dave Mustaine successfully converted a penalty, a vital early goal that inched PSS closer towards safety. Persipura then responded to PSS taking the lead by opening the scoring in their own match, with Yohanes Pahabol blasting one past Rendy Oscario in the Persita goal in the 20th minute.

Eleven minutes later Persipura doubled their advantage thanks to Yevhen Bokhashvili’s strike, however with Barito still forcing Persib to a goalless draw, it was the Mutiara Hitam who were set to go down due to their inferior head-to-head record with the Laskar Antasari.

Beckham Putra gave Persipura a sigh of relief after the Persib player had given the Maung Bandung the lead in the 54th minute, before the Mutiara Hitam gave themselves further breathing space once Ramiro Fergonzi had tripled Persipura’s lead in the 80th minute. At this point, Kim Jeffrey Kurniawan’s goal for PSS in the 82nd minute meant nothing for Persipura – it was them and the Super Elja who will avoid the dreaded jaws of relegation.

However, Persipura’s smiles were wiped out of their faces after Beni Oktovianto, a half-time substitute for Barito, seized upon a loose ball from Rafael Silva to score against his former club in the 84th minute, drawing the scoreline level and pushing Persipura into the drop once again.

Barito then defended the scoreline quite emphatically during the remainder of their match, with goalkeeper Muhammad Riyandi, who performed a number of heroic saves throughout the match, even going down injured in the line of duty during the dying minutes of the game.

His sacrifice was not in vain, though, as Barito managed to hang on for the vital one point, a point that pushed them into safety, only just.

By contrast, despite winning their final match of the season, the mood surrounding the Persipura camp was quite somber, with players and head coach Angel Alfredo Vera being reduced to tears by Barito’s draw. Indonesia’s most successful team, with four top-flight titles and an appearance in the 2014 AFC Cup semifinal to their name, are going down to the Liga 2 next season.

Despite embarking on a 7-match unbeaten run at the end of the season, Barito’s own 5-game unbeaten run spelled the end of the road for Persipura, who were relegated for the first time since entering the top-flight in the 1994/95 season. The Mutiara Hitam‘s demotion represented a dark day for not only football on the far-flung island of Papua, but also for Indonesian football as a whole, as they were the golden standard of the sport since the mid-2000s.