Selayang: Arema Indonesia salvaged a point from their AFC Cup Group F opener against Selangor as a late goal by Nigeria-born Indonesia international defender Victor Igbonefo earned them a 1-1 draw against the Malaysia side at Selayang Stadium on Tuesday.
Brazilian striker Paulo Rangel put the hosts ahead as early as the ninth minute but Arema levelled in the 73rd minute after Igbonefo got a faint header to a free-kick taken by captain Ahmad Bustomi.
There was a lively atmosphere during the match with fans of both teams providing vocal support well before kick-off.
Arema enjoyed early good possession but they were caught out in the ninth minute when the home side broke quickly with Indonesian forward Andik Vermansyah playing a delightful through ball to Rangel, who drilled the ball past Arema goalkeeper Kurnia Meiga Hermansyah to give his side the lead.
Selangor goalkeeper Hamsani Ahmad was called into action shortly afterwards as he came off his line to dispossess Arema striker Cristian Gonzales as he bore down on goal.
Junior Aparecido almost doubled Selangor’s lead in the 33rd minute after meeting Paulo's chip pass with a header that went just beyond the far post.
But it was Abdul Shukur who squandered the Red Giants' best chance in the 52nd minute when he shot wide after finding himself in a one-on-one situation with Hermansyah.
That miss would prove costly when the visitors equalised with 17 minutes left. They were awarded a free-kick on the left flank and Bustomi curled in a delightful ball that grazed Igbonefo's head on its way into the net.
With Hanoi T&T thrashing Maziya 5-1 in the other Group F game, Selangor and Arema find themselves in joint second place in the group, two points behind the Vietnamese side.
“It is disappointing as we have worked hard all week to defend against set pieces,” said Selangor coach Mehmet Durakovic.
“But I am happy with the way we played because in my opinion, we dominated the whole match.
“I am also disappointed for the players as they worked very hard for the goal, only to be denied a victory. We created a lot of chances in the second half and if we had been sharper we could have been three, maybe four-nil ahead.”
While there was disappointment for Durakovic, Arema coach Suharno felt that his side deserved a share of the points.
“One point is still a good result for me,” he said. “My team was very disciplined and I am happy with their work ethic.
“The only mistake is that we failed to contain Selangor in the early proceedings and conceded that early goal but that was due to Selangor's brilliant strategy, and not a fatal error by our side.
“We were patient and regained our rhythm and we took our chance in the second half to equalise.”