Peter Odemwingie outshines Michael Essien as Madura United beat Persib
Peter Odemwingie scored twice on Sunday night to give Madura United a 3-1 win over Persib Bandung and himself victory in the personal battle with Michael Essien, who had a goal and an assist ruled out on an evening of controversial refereeing decisions.
The three points keeps United a point behind leaders PSM Makassar, while the brace from the former Stoke City and West Bromich Albion winger keeps him on top of the scoring charts in Indonesia's Liga 1 with 11 goals in 12 games.
There was controversy, however, over the opener from the ex-Nigerian international. It seemed that Madura marksman Greg Nwokolo fouled Dedi Kusnandar before falling to the ground, but the referee pointed to the spot.
Odemwingie took a customary long run-up to stroke the ball into the net for his 10th of the season.
There was another source of contention on the stroke of half-time. Essien headed a cross smartly into the path of Raphael Maitimo, who made no mistake in firing home.
However, the referee's assistant flagged for offside, despite the protestations from Persib, who are now 11th on the table,that the Dutch-born veteran was behind the defender.
Eight minutes after the restart, Persib were feeling aggrieved once more.
The hosts failed to clear a deep floated free kick and the ball fell to Essien just inside the area. The former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder fired into the net only for the goal to be ruled out for another uncertain offside decision.
It was probably Essien's best performance since arriving in Indonesia, with the Ghanaian looking sharp and energetic in midfield. In the space of four days, the 34-year-old played two full games, barring his withdrawal against Madura six minutes from the end.
Yet it was Odemwingie that took the plaudits with yet another goal for his team.
Midway through the second half, Madura counterattacked at speed to extend their lead. Nwokolo broke free down the left to square the ball inside the area. Odemwingie had time to pick his spot and the 35-year-old had little trouble in scoring for the 11th time this season.
It was another fine example of coolness and composure in front of goal that the former Premier League star has shown from the start of his stint in Indonesia.
With eight minutes remaining, Madura looked to be heading for victory, but Maitimo finally pulled a goal back for Persib. His initial shot was initially stopped by Hery Prasetyo but the goalkeeper could not stop the ball bouncing up and over the line.
Any thoughts of a Persib comeback were dashed three minutes from time. Bayu Sanggiawan found Nwokolo in the area and the striker fired home from close range.
"We lost 3-1 but we performed well with a lot of fighting spirit," Persib coach Djadjang Nurdjaman said.
The coach, who has been under pressure for much of the season after failing to keep Persib near the top, refused to be drawn too much on the performance of the referee.
"We had two goals disallowed and I am not sure about their penalty," he said, asking the fans to study the game for themselves, and leaving it up to the team manager to protest.
Madura coach Gomes de Oliveira was also reluctant to comment on the referee's performance, preferring to focus on his team.
"Persib played well, " the Brazilian said. "But we are improving as a team. We worked hard for this win and it is a very important one for us."
Madura stay second, a point behind leaders PSM, who defeated Bhayangkara 2-1, thanks to goals from Syamsul Chaeruddin and Reinaldo Costa. Persipura stay third after a 1-1 draw at Persija.
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.