Michael Essien, Didier Zokora settle for stalemate in Indonesia
Michael Essien and Persib Bandung missed an opportunity to move top of Indonesia Liga One on Saturday night after being held to a 0-0 draw at Didier Zokora's Semen Padang.
The two African legends went head-to-head from early in the second half when Essien came off the bench for Persib. But neither the former Ghana star nor Ivory Coast icon was able to help his new team break the deadlock, though Zokora was the busier of the two players.
The point means that Persib stay in second, below leaders PSM, while Semen Padang are in 10th.
Although Semen had the home advantage, the visitors made the early running.
Persib pressed from the off, and after 12 minutes Gian Nugraha shot straight at the goalkeeper from the edge of the six-yard box.
Three minutes later, Zokora floated over a free kick from just inside the Persib half, only for Brazilian striker Marcel Sacramento to shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
Just after the half-hour, some left-sided trickery from Shohei Matsunaga gave Febri Haryadi a chance from outside the area, but the 21-year-old's shot flew over.
Zokora almost made the difference early in the second half. The former Tottenham midfielder, who won the 2008 League Cup with the club, floated over the perfect pass into the area, only for Vendry Mofu to shoot straight into the arms of the Persib goalkeeper.
Mofu came the closest, with just a few minutes remaining, as his low shot bounced just past Persib's left post.
Essien came off the bench eight minutes into the second half, but the former Chelsea favourite was unable to make much of an impact after scoring goals in two of his previous games.
In the end, the teams had to settle for a point and Persib boss Djadjang Nurdjaman was satisfied.
"I think we should be happy with the result," he said. "It is always hard to get a point in Padang. Just look at our previous record here... we always find it difficult here."
"It was a tough game, and it is positive that we kept a clean sheet, and we stay unbeaten this season after six games."
Semen boss Nil Maizar cut a frustrated figure after failing to collect a victory after two successive defeats.
"We played well today, and we were in control of the game," said the coach. "We were just unable to score. We were hoping to get the win, but this is football."
Elsewhere, Sriwijaya moved into fifth with a 3-2 win over Barito Putera. On Friday, the battle of the basement saw Gresik United defeat Persiba Balikpapan to move three points clear of their bottom-placed opponents.
PSM can extend their lead at the top of the table at PS TNI on Monday.
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.