Matchday One - Group H: Johor Darul Ta'zim 3-0 Persija Jakarta
Johor Bahru: Johor Darul Ta’zim got off to a winning start in Group H of the 2018 AFC Cup after cruising to a 3-0 victory over Indonesia’s Persija Jakarta at a packed Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium on Wednesday.
The 2015 winners came racing out of the blocks and almost went in front in the third minute when Fadhli Shas headed Safiq Rahim’s free-kick onto the crossbar, before Luciano Figueroa’s header from Rahim’s corner three minutes later was superbly saved by goalkeeper Andritany Ardhiyasa.
Johor were controlling the game and took a deserved lead just before the half-hour mark after wonderful link up play saw Pereyra Diaz find Azrif Nasrulhaq, who crossed for Hazwan Bakri to finish from six yards out.
The Malaysian side then doubled their advantage three minutes before the interval when Pereyra Diaz evaded the offside trap to latch onto Afiq Fazail’s lobbed ball, round goalkeeper Ardhiyasa and finish from the right side of the penalty area.
Pereyra Diaz capitalised on a defensive mix-up nine minutes after the restart and looked certain to add a third as he closed in on goal, but was denied by an outstanding reactive save by Ardhiyasa from point-blank range as Persija somehow remained in the game.
With 19 minutes remaining Persija captain Bambang Pamungkas missed a gilt-edged chance to get on the scoresheet after a mistake by Hariss Harun, when the forward got away from goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, only to strike the post with the goal at his mercy.
The Indonesian side were then made to pay with 14 minutes remaining when Pereyra Diaz found substitute Safawi Rasid, who lashed home an unstoppable left-foot effort to round off the scoring.
Johor will next travel to Vietnam to face Song Lam Nghe An in two weeks’ time, while Persija will host Singapore’s Home United, who lost 2-0 to the Vietnamese side on their tournament opener on Saturday.