Ezra Walian and Bayu Fiqri were off to a flying start when Persib earned its first victory on Monday, 29 March, to sit atop Group D of Piala Menpora by defeating Persita 3-1 at Maguwoharjo Stadium in Sleman.
“Maung Bandung,” which wore its third, grey shirt, produced a convincing display overall, but these two youngsters deserve specific mention as they stole the spotlights for two different reasons.
Walian made his first appearance for the club at the 63rd minute, and it didn’t take long for the 23-year-old forward to make an impact. He sealed the win by scoring the final goal after receiving an assist from 19-year-old Bayu, another newcomer that also made his debut today.
How the match went
As expected, Persib made some changes from its opening match five days ago. Dhika Bayangkara replaced I Made Wirawan to stand under the goalpost. He was backed by Victor Igbonefo, Achmad Jufriyanto, Zalnando, and Bayu Fiqri on the backline. Nick Kuipers, Henhen Herdiana, and Ardi Idrus were sidelined to get more recovery times.
In the second line, Dedi Kusnandar and Abdul Aziz were deployed to lead in midfield, while Erwin Ramdani and Esteban Vizcarra were placed on the right and left wings, respectively. This composition allowed Febri Hariyadi, Ferdinand Sinaga, and Beckham Putra Nugraha to have some rest.
Speedy and high-powered Frets Butuan, who has already collected one goal from his previous match, was paired with Wander Luiz – the man that ended up contributing greatly to two of Persib’s three goals today.
At the 15th minute mark, Luiz was the man that made it possible for Vizcarra to score the opener. He tricked a defender by turning around his body inside the penalty area and passing the ball to Vizcarra. The Argentinian-born midfielder then easily slotted it home with a low-drilled shot that went to the far post.
At the 35th minute, Luiz proved himself to be a pivotal part of the team again as he set up a process for Frets to score his second goal in the competition.
The Brazilian saw Frets create space from the left side. He sent a perfect through pass for his partner that allowed him to go one on one with the keeper. With a powerful left strike, he placed the ball to the far post to beat his adversary and added his goal tally.
Two minutes later, Luiz himself had a perfect opportunity to enter the scoresheet. He jumped the highest to meet Dedi’s corner, but his header went over the target.
Persita’s Waskita Chandra reduced the deficit with a perfect penalty conversion that sent Dhika the wrong way. The Tangerang-based team was awarded a penalty moments before half time after Jufriyanto was found touching the ball with his hand following a scrimmage after a corner. Persita nearly evened the score three minutes later if not because of Igbonefo’s perfect block inside the penalty area.
Three minutes after the match resumed in the second half, Frets almost registered his name on the scoresheet again. After receiving a pass from Luiz’ flicked header, he tricked one of his guardians to unleash another danger with his left foot. However, the opposing keeper made a perfect reaction to deny the chance.
To add aggression upfront – while giving more opportunities for the other members of the squad, Robert Albert entered some fresh names halfway through the second half. These include Beckham and Walian, who made his highly anticipated debut.
These changes bore fruits as the two youngsters, along with another prodigal talent in the squad, played a crucial part in Persib’s third and final goal of the match. Beckham was quick to find overlapping Bayu on the right flank, who then perfectly delivered the ball into the area.
Ferdinand Sinaga let it to get past him, and Walian was there to finish it. Though, it might not look like the execution he intended to, the strike was enough to freeze the keeper and gave Persib an assurance that the game was over.
The perfect setup and understandings between the players involved made this goal extremely special. While Beckham has won Bobotoh’s hearts since the opening game, this match seemed to have provided a stage for Walian and Bayu to shine.
With this result, Persib comfortably sits at the top of the table with four points after two matches. The West Java icon will play its third and final game in Group D on Friday, 2 April, against Persiraja Banda Aceh that lost 0-2 to Bali United earlier in the afternoon.