Tuesday, May 08, 2012
AFC Cup Action
While much of the world is looking forward to a Champions League final pitching Bayern Munchen against Chelsea, here in South East Asia the much more humble AFC Cup is nearing the end of the group stages and for clubs from the region it has been a largely successful campaign thus far.
Except of course Indonesia’s sole representative, Arema. Beset by problems all season, Arema, who are sitting tenth in the 12 team Indonesia Premier League have struggled to make any impact in Group H where they have been drawn against Kelantan from Malaysia, Ayeyawady United (Myanmar) and Navibank Saigon from Vietnam.
All but ignored by the fanatical Aremania supporters who have chosen to follow the Arema competing in Indonesia’s rival Super League, Arema have struggled from the first group game when they were held by Ayeyawady United in Malang despite taking the lead.
Next up was a trip to Vietnam to be hosted by Navibank Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City. Like their first game, Arema took the lead but the home team responded with a hat trick by Edison Fonsenca Pulgarin to ease out a 3-1 victory.
Another away game followed, this time at Kelantan, champions of the Malaysia Super League, and another defeat. Just under 10,000 fans saw the home team win at a canter, chalking up a 3-0 win over the hapless Arema while the return game, attracting a poor 2,000 crowd, saw the Malaysians win 3-1.
Arema it seemed were dead and buried. One point from their opening four games was a very poor return indeed and they would have travelled to Myanmar with a certain amount of trepidation knowing Ayeyawady had beaten both Kelantan and Navibank Saigon in their previous home games.
Not for the first time during this season’s competition, Arema took an early lead when Putut Waringin Jati opened the scoring on 10 minutes. But this time the Indonesians went on to extend their lead, going into the break 3-0 up after goals from Ahmad Amiruddin and TA Mushafry added to the early goal.
They held on to win 3-0 and return to Indonesia knowing that with just one game remaining knowing that, against all the odds there is a chance they could reach the next round of the competition.
Kelantan lead the group with 10 points from their opening five games and have secured qualification to the knock out stage where they join fellow Malaysians Terengganu. The fight for the second qualifying place though is a keen one.
Ayeyawady and Navibank each have seven points with the Vietnamese enjoying a better goal difference while Arema are bottom with four points. Arema host Navibank in the final group game knowing that if they can overturn their negative goal difference, and Kelantan beat the Myanmar side, there is an outside chance they could reach the next round.
It’s a remote chance for sure. The Vietnamese have a goal difference of plus two while Arema’s is minus four. In the Indonesian’s favour will be the fact that Navibank have yet to win on their travels.
If ever the team needed the Aremania it will be on 8th May at the Gajayana Stadium in Malang as they seek to achieve the impossible.
Written 26 April for Jakarta Globe
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