Michael Essien scores first Indonesian goal but Persib Bandung draw again
Despite Michael Essien scoring his first goal in Indonesia on Saturday night, Persib Bandung were disappointed to drop two points after being held to a 2-2 draw at PS TNI in the second week of Indonesia's Liga 1.
It means that the 2015 champions are winless after two rounds, despite a massive preseason spending spree to beef up their squad.
Both Essien and his former Chelsea teammate Carlton Cole came on a second-half substitutes, despite reports that they did not have the correct visas for import players.
The visitors raced into a 2-0 lead early in the second half, but were unable to keep the hosts at bay at the Pakansari Stadium.
The late defensive lapses mean that Persib, who drew their opening match 0-0 at home to Arema a week earlier, are only 10th on the table.
It was all looking rosy five minutes into the second half.
Ghanaian midfielder Essien took the pitch for the start of the second half as many of the fans wondered about his match fitness and eligibility.
He made an immediate impact in a playmaker role, more advanced than during his days in Europe's top leagues. The former Real Madrid man got on the end of a right-sided corner from Kim Jeffrey Kurniawan in the 50th minute to send a powerful header over the despairing dive of Dhika Bayangkara and into the roof of the hosts' net.
Just seconds later, Persib were two goals to the good as Atep Ahmad Rizal volleyed home from inside the area after a smart chipped past from Billy Keraf doubled the visitors' advantage.
There were chances from both teams in the final stages, with Cole introduced with 15 minutes remaining. But with the goal at his mercy, the former West Ham United marksman had the ball snatched from his feet by an over-eager teammate.
Still, three points looked to be in the bag until two minutes from time when Erwin Ramdani pulled a goal back for TNI with a shot through a crowded penalty area.
There was still time for Gustur Cahyo to equalise from close range with just seconds remaining to leave Persib frustrated for a second successive Saturday. Former England striker Cole continues to look well below his Upton Park prime.
Their next opponents will be Sriwijaya who moved into fourth with a 1-0 win at home to Borneo, thanks to an early strike from Hilton Moreira.
Persija Jakarta missed a chance to go top above early leaders Semen Padanag after being held to a 1-1 draw by at home to Barito Putera in front of almost 30,000 fans.
Luiz Junior rescued a point for the hosts with 17 minutes remaining, shortly after Thaigo Cunha had put Barito ahead.
Mitra Kukar can go top if they defeat PSM at home on Monday evening while on Sunday, Arema host Bhayangkara and Persipura travel to Bali United.
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.