Michael Essien helps brighten Indonesian season of Persib Bandung
Michael Essien scored his third goal of the season, helping Persib Bandung to a 3-1 win over PS TNI that moves the troubled team away from the relegation zone in Indonesia's Liga 1.
The former Real Madrid and Chelsea midfielder struck midway through the first half at the Stadium Si Jalak Harupat on Saturday night to extend the West Javans' lead against the visitors.
Heading into the game, Persib had collected two points from a possible 15. It was a run that had not only resulted in the departure of coach Djadjang Nurdjaman, but sent the Blues down to a place above the relegation zone.
Yet with assistant Herrie Setyawan standing in temporarily, they gave their best performance of the season so far, with the only frustation that the winning margin was not wider.
Persib started purposefully and while the lead, taken after 16 minutes, was deserved, it happened in slightly fortuitous fashion.
Febri Haryadi broke free down the right and his low cross eluded the PS TNI defence and bounced off Raphael Maitimo and into an empty net.
It was the confidence booster that the hosts needed and five minutes later, Essien scored with a header straight out of the top drawer.
A corner was floated over from the right, against by Haryadi, and the Ghanaian, standing just around the penalty spot, rose above Hong Soon-hak to plant a firm header high into the net.
Essien almost grabbed another five minutes later, forcing Teguh Amiruddin into a fine one-handed save.
After 64 minutes, Maitimo sealed the win with his second of the night to give Persib a first three-goal haul of the season.
Once again, Haryadi was the provider with a fine cross from the right and Maitimo headed firmly into the back of the net.
Sansan Husaeni provided a late consolation for PS TNI but the evening belong to Persib, who climb up into 14th.
"We were determined to get the win today and you can see the result," Setyawan said. "We controlled the game and pressured them from the beginning."
The interim boss paid tribute to the players and the effort they put in.
"The players worked hard and they showed their passion for the team," he said. "We could have scored more than three and we want to prove that we can be a team that others will fear, especially at home."
Madura United top the standings after a 2-1 win at home to Persela.
Peter Odemwingie did not add to his 13 goals for the season so far but he provided the opener for Slamet Nurcahyono after 12 minutes. Kousuke Uchida levelled on the half-hour but Fandi Utomo secured the points for Madura with eight minutes remaining.
Bhayangkara are in second and defeated Arema 2-1.
Gresik United stay rock bottom after a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Semen Padang, three points behind Persiba Balikpapan who defeated Perseru on Sunday.
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.