Group E: Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS) 1-0 Kashima Antlers (JPN)
Johor Bahru: Johor Darul Ta’zim pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent years in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday as the Malaysian Super League side defeated reigning champions Kashima Antlers thanks to a solitary goal from Syafiq Ahmad.
Syafiq’s 69th minute stunner earned JDT their first-ever win in the group phase of the competition and it means the reigning champions will have to wait until the final round of group games in two weeks’ time to find out if they will advance to the last 16.
A draw against already qualified Shandong Luneng on May 22 could be enough to take Go Oiwa’s side into the knockout rounds, but the loss against JDT was the second in a row for the Japanese club and the second time they have missed the chance to secure their place in the next phase.
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Oiwa’s side only had themselves to blame for the loss after creating the majority of the chances over the 90 minutes and they should have had the game wrapped up before Syafiq’s fine finish claimed the points for JDT.
With Brazilian striker Diogo suspended, the home side lacked the cutting edge required to cause the defending champions any problems at the back and that meant the onus was on Kashima to try to find a way through the JDT defence.
Leo Silva had one of the best chances of the night as early as the ninth minute when he found himself one-on-one with JDT goalkeeper Izham Tarmizi only to see his shot saved. Serginho then blasted the rebound wide of the target.
Mohamad Aidil Zafuan then almost did the job of Kashima’s forward line for them when he threw himself at Yasushi Endo’s inswinging cross, only for the ball to just clear the JDT crossbar.
Kashima continued to dictate the tempo of the game but failed to turn their dominance into goals. Sho Ito shot over the bar from eight yards out with the goal at his mercy four minutes before the break while the striker’s attempt from distance soon after could only find the arms of Izham.
Ito was again at fault four minutes after the restart when Izham denied him from close range and Kashima’s struggles in front of goal were to come back to haunt them in the 69th minute when Syafiq stepped inside the ineffective challenge of Tomoya Inukai before curling his shot beyond Kwoun Sun-tae to seal a famous win.
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