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Mora proud as JDT make impressive bow

Ibaraki: Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim came away from their long-awaited debut in the group phase of the AFC Champions League on the wrong end of a 2-1 result against title holders Kashima Antlers on Tuesday.

But, while the Southern Tigers made a losing start to the 2019 campaign, head coach Benjamin Mora hailed his players’ performance at the home of the eight-time J.League champions after JDT frustrated Go Oiwa’s side throughout the 90 minutes of their Group E opener.

“We are happy because we made our first appearance in the ACL group stage versus the champions, the last champion that was playing versus Real Madrid, that was playing versus Chivas, and we did very well,” said the Mexican.

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“It was a big challenge, not to come and beat them but a big challenge to be outside on this beautiful pitch with personality; with the personality to try and show that we are proud to represent Johor, Malaysia and proud to be in JDT.

“We knew it would be tough. We studied Kashima, maybe four or five games, and we studied and studied and still inside the pitch it was very hard because Kashima play at another level.

“But we’re very happy to represent Malaysia in this competition and we go out of here happy. And also happy because we are going home, where with the heat we maybe have one opportunity to improve a little bit in the things we didn’t do that well. We have an opportunity to maintain our level.”

JDT rode out a difficult opening 15 minutes in which goalkeeper Farizal Marlias conceded a penalty to Kashima, only to save Serginho’s spot-kick, and looked set to go into the halftime break level.

Taiki Hirato's fortuitous goal eventually gave Kashima the lead their first half display warranted before Serginho made amends for his penalty miss with a top class strike from distance that gave the JDT goalkeeper little chance.

Mora, though, took heart from the spirit his side showed and the goal they scored through new Brazilian signing Diogo 10 minutes from the end, with the coach hoping it can give his players confidence as they continue their AFC Champions League campaign.


Group E: Kashima Antlers vs Johor Darul Ta'zim

“It means a lot,” Mora said of his side’s consolation goal. “We accomplished the first task, and that was to try to score.

“We tried to press in the game as much as we can knowing the Kashima players. Even though some of the important players did not play, everyone in the squad plays good football.

“We needed to press and show that we were willing at some point to repossess the ball in their half as much as we could to have an opportunity. We tried everything. Thankfully we had a set-piece that we converted."

“It’s a very motivational goal to go to Johor to try and improve. It’s a shame we couldn’t score a second one and for my players that would have been very good.

“But the score, 2-1 is OK. Kashima deserved to score these two goals and we will see in Johor what happens.”

JDT play Gyeongnam FC next Tuesday, with the Korea Republic club having opened their campaign with a 2-2 draw with China PR side Shandong Luneng FC.

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