Kuala Lumpur: Head coach Ivan Kolev is looking forward to his Persija Jakarta adventure after the Indonesian champions advanced to the second preliminary stage of the 2019 AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
Their place in the second stage was sealed at the expense of Singapore's Home United, the team who had ended Persija's 2018 AFC Cup campaign in the ASEAN Zonal semi-finals.
Ho Wai Loon's own goal in the ninth minute gave the Indonesian side the lead, but Song Ui-young restored parity two minutes from the break. However, second half goals from Beto Goncalves and Marko Simic gave Persija the win.
Kolev, who only assumed his post three weeks ago, was elated with the win which will see Persija facing Australia's Newcastle Jets in the Preliminary Stage Two on Tuesday.
“I was only with the team for three weeks. But I found out how this team already has an extraordinary way of playing.
"Of course, I have to thank the players who remained solid during the match and in training,” said Kolev, a former Indonesia national team head coach.
The win was sweet, especially after Home United had beaten Persija 3-1 in the return leg of the 2018 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Semi-finals at the Gelora Bung Karno, with the Singapore side advancing 6-3 on aggregate.
“Once again, the team played amazingly against Home United. Last season’s defeat did not have a negative impact on them,” said Kolev to the media after the win at Singapore's Jalan Besar Stadium.
The winners of the Newcastle Jets-Persija tie will advance to an enticing playoff meeting with 2018 AFC Champions League winners Kashima Antlers, with the victors taking their place in Group E alongside Korea Republic's Gyeongnam FC, Johor Darul Ta'zim of Malaysia and another playoff winner.