Analysis: JDT make club history with first ever ACL win
Johor Bahru: Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) enjoyed a night to remember on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over defending champions Kashima Antlers of Japan that secured three points for their first time in the AFC Champions League.
History was made at the Stadium Tan Sri Dato HJ Hassan Yunos on Matchday Five when JDT upset all the odds to register a maiden win in Asia's most prestigious club competition and doing it by downing no less than the AFC Champions League holders, Kashima.
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Width proves key
While both teams clearly saw wide positions as a key area to exploit, JDT particularly looked to use the flanks as a key attacking outlet with just 20% of their attack coming through the middle, compared with Kashima's 28%.
The top four most common passing combinations in the match were all for the Malaysians and all down the right and left wings. Full-back LaVere Corbin-Ong on the left to forward Gonzalo Cabrera (16) and defender S.Kunalan, who was particularly impressive, to midfielder Safawi Rasid (16) on the right were by far the most numerous interactions.
Unlike Kashima, who focused the bulk of their attack down the right, JDT spread their offence evenly down both sides to keep the visitors' defence on their toes.
And it proved to be a profitable tactic.
Several chances came as a result of the wing play as did, eventually, the game's only goal, with Syafiq Ahmad cutting in from the left on 69 minutes to fire past Kwoun Sun-tae to cement his name to the club's record books.
A night to remember for Syafiq
Since making his first team bow last season, 23-year-old forward Syafiq has struggled to turn his opportunity into consistent game time, with just 116 minutes of on-field action in the domestic league in 2018 and with record signing Diogo the main attacking outlet after his arrival in January.
However, with the Brazilian suspended, Syafiq had his chance to shine, given a lead role in the attack. While a lot of his involvement was down the flanks (as per the heatmap below) his one shot on target proved to be a decisive - a cool finish into the opposite corner of the net.
The Malaysia international's all-round contributions from either end of the field were also reflected in his match stats with a decent passing accuracy of 85%, five duels won, two tackles won and a shot blocked.
Hariss Harun sets a captain's example
While S.Kunalan and Corbin-Ong proved the width and Safawi and Syafiq the attacking thrust, it was the man wearing the armband who proved the anchor at the heart of the JDT side. Rarely moving from his central midfield position, Hariss was a rock for JDT once more.
Winning a higher percentage of his duels than any of his teammates, the Singaporean also comfortably outstripped any of the Kashima midfield when it came to his passing game, as shown in the numbers below.
No mean feat when the opposition includes the likes of Leo Silva and Serginho who were so pivotal to Kashima's run to the title last year!
Whether or not JDT have done enough to now get themselves into the Round of 16 - sitting three points behind second placed Kashima, they will need to defeat Gyeongnam FC away and hope Kashima lose at home to Shandong Luneng - this result, a standout amongst other fine performances thus far, means they will always look back on their debut AFC Champions League with immense pride.
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