Piala Menpora: Frets Butuan scores to help Persib earn first point in 2021

After more than a year since its last competitive match, Persib returned to action on Wednesday, 24 March, to face Bali United in a highly anticipated Piala Menpora (Menpora Cup) group stage match.

The battle between the two Indonesian champions was held in Sleman’s Maguwoharjo Stadium – a neutral venue picked to prevent fans from attending the match.

It was the first competitive match for both sponsors-heavy clubs after the global pandemic forced the discontinuation of the 2020 Indonesian league, where the two giants topped the table after three games.

Persib, which recently signed Ezra Walian and Ferdinand Sinaga, was cleared to field any registered players as medical tests showed negative results of the coronavirus.

Robert Albert picked veteran goalkeeper I Made Wirawan to guard under the goalpost, while Victor Igbonevo, Nick Kuipers, Ardi Idrus, and Henhen Herdiana were tasked to build a fortress in front of him.

Meanwhile, Beckham Putra Nugraha, Dedi Kusnandar, Febri Hariyadi, and Esteban Vizcarra were the main quartet to create a balance in the midfield while also helping Ferdinand Sinaga and Frets Butuan produce dangers upfront.

What went down on the pitch

Understandably, the first few minutes of the game were full of errors. It ran awkwardly as the players lost their touch having suffered from ring rust. You might wonder if they were just clueless tourists visiting Borobudur.

However, the adrenaline began to be pumping when two Persib’s towering center backs, Nick Kuipers and Victor Igbonefo, were punished with a yellow card each 10 minutes into the game for technical faults they committed to stop Bali’s counters. They might have begun to bet that whoever got the red card first would need to clean the team’s bus.

And things got more difficult as Bali was more dominant in the center half – led by former Persib’s rockstar Hariono. It was not until the 20th minute of the game that Persib delivered its first threat through a header from Igbonefo. Though, unfortunately, it didn’t pose any danger.

Three minute later, Bali earned a clearer chance through Fahmi Al Ayubi, who wrecked a havoc from the flank and penetrated into Persib’s penalty area. His shot, however, went too wide.

Frets made sure his presence was felt in the 40th minute. When his corner was blocked, he quickly recovered the ball and got past his guardian on the wing to unleash a low-drilled shot. However, his attempt missed the target.

Minutes before halftime, young midfielder Beckham had some space in the midfield. As his eyes were locked on the opposing team’s goalie, his right foot swung the ball, hoping to replicate the world-famous goal of the English version of him David Beckham.

It went slightly over the bar, however, that attempt went to show the level of his confidence as a 19-year-old prodigy. And immediately after that, the whistle was blown to mark the end of the first half.

Incredible teamwork marked the beginning of the second half as an accurate long ball from Beckham met the overlapping Febri, who then went with a one-two pass with Ferdinand. As he dashed to go one-on-one with the keeper, his right-footed shot went a few kilometers wide. If he has two left feet, the result might have been different.

Bali took the lead a few minutes later. After a brief scrimmage in front of Persib’s goal, William Pacheco tapped in to enter his name on the scoresheet.

As Bali aimed to maintain its lead, the team lost one of its members. A sliding tackle from Andhika Wijaya on dashing Febri resulted in a second yellow. To be frank, it was in Persib’s own half and not in a dangerous position. But, nobody likes to see Febri playing too long with the ball – even his teammates sometimes.

To add aggression upfront, Persib made a few changes, including fielding its most prolific striker last year Wander Luiz. The Brazilian earned his first and only chance at the 85th minute. As he went unmarked, he blasted a shot at the edge of the penalty area, which, fortunately for the Denpasar-based club, went straight to the corner flag.

Persib’s equalizer eventually came at the dying minute. Chaos ensued when everyone tried their lucks with whatever shot they were able to do until Frets met the loose ball and pushed it in with his right foot to score Persib’s first-ever goal in the competition. His goal might also be remembered as the first for the club during the pandemic era.

Persib will continue its quest in the tournament on Monday, 29 March, when it meets Persita Tangerang, who sits at the bottom of Group D after succumbing to a defeat to Periraja Banda Aceh 3-1 in its opening game.

Photo: persib.co.id

Reads also: Persib signs Ezra Walian as present on club anniversary day

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