Lessa sets Persipura sights on AFC Cup final

Persipura Jayapura coach Osvaldo Lessa has challenged his side to go one better in the AFC Cup this year and reach the final of the continental tournament.

The Indonesia Super League giants caused quite a stir in 2014 by reaching the semi-finals of the competition, before they were eliminated by eventual champions Al Qadsia 10-2 on aggregate.

Then, Persipura were under the stewardship of the iconic Jacksen F. Tiago but with the 46-year-old now in charge of Malaysia Premier League outfit Penang, his place has been taken by Lessa.

Although it will be no easy feat, Lessa insists he is unfazed by the task of filling the void left by his fellow Brazilian, and has set his sights on taking his side further in the AFC Cup this season.

“It’s very simple – we are aiming to reach the final,” he said. “Last year we reached the semi-finals so we want to do better.

“It’s a new team with a new coach and we know it’s a very tough competition.

“These tournaments are very different from the league, where you have many games throughout the year to get the results. We will need to start well and pick up the points.

“I don’t think there’s any problem taking over Persipura [after Tiago’s reign].

“That [Tiago’s time in charge of the club] was one part of Persipura’s history. Now, I’m hoping to create a new chapter.”

Mutiara Hitam are yet to kick off their domestic campaign after the start of the Super League was delayed, meaning Tuesday’s Group E opener against Warriors FC will be their first competitive outing of 2015.

Nonetheless, Ivorian attacker Lancine Kone – a new signing from Sriwijaya – insists his team-mates will be ready for the clash against their Singaporean opponents at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

“Of course, it’s difficult to start a competition with no competitive games under our belt,” he said. “But we have to accept the position we find ourselves in.

“Based on the friendly matches we’ve played, we believe we have enough preparation.

“We will be ready for our opponents.”

Persipura are no stranger to continental football and 2015 will be the fifth time in six years they have qualified to play in an AFC club competition.

And Lessa believes this experience of playing on the big stage will be a key factor in his charges’ hopes of getting a positive result in the tournament this season.

“We know the AFC Cup is a difficult competition and it’s even more so when it’s our first competitive game of the season,” the Brazilian added. “But we have prepared for this for two months.

“I’ve watched two of Warriors’ games [in the AFC Champions League qualifiers] and they are a very good team who are compact.

“But Persipura have one little advantage – we have been playing in the AFC Cup regularly throughout the past few years.

“This experience is very important.”

The other two teams making up Group E are Indian debutants Bengaluru and Maziya of Maldives.

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