Analysis: JDT well worthy of landmark win
Iskandar Puteri: Johor Darul Ta’zim created another piece of history on Tuesday as the Malaysian champions defeated Suwon Samsung Bluewings to win their maiden AFC Champions League game at Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.
The Korean heavyweights may have dominated possession with more than 61%, but JDT again showed that they are a match for anyone on the Continent on home soil as the 2-1 win moved them to second in Group G and left their opponents bottom and still seeking their first points of the campaign.
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Taggart fires blanks
Having finished as the 2019 K League’s top scorer, Adam Taggart began his debut AFC Champions League campaign as Suwon’s main marksman but, after being kept largely on the peripheral in the defeat against Vissel Kobe two weeks ago, he missed two excellent chances in Johor.
The first came just before the 15-minute mark when, played in by Kim Min-woo, the unchallenged Australian striker blazed over the bar from 16 yards as the visitors passed up a perfect opportunity to cancel out JDT’s opener.
Then, moments after the restart, Taggart again found himself in acres of space inside the area but this time directed his header from Hong Chul’s cross directly at Farizal Marlias when he should have at least made the goalkeeper work.
Taggart had five attempts on goal (above) across the 90 minutes but, despite the misses, he is getting into the right positions. The hope for Suwon is that he returns to the goalscoring form that made him such a threat in the K League last year.
While much of the talk surrounding JDT as an attacking force centres around the supremely talented Safawi Rasid, AFC Champions League veteran Diogo and Argentine-Iraqi Gonzalo Cabrera, it was another player who stood out against Suwon.
Nazmi Faiz played a huge part in both his side’s goals, with the midfielder’s inch-perfect through-ball to Diogo leading to the Brazilian being brought down in the box before Cabrera fired home from the spot for the game’s opener.
Then, with JDT back on top after withstanding Suwon pressure in the second half, the 25-year-old floated a beautiful inswinging delivery from the left to allow the match-winner Mauricio to head home from close range.
Restored to the starting line-up after being an unused substitute in Friday’s Charity Shield victory over Kedah, Nazmi reminded head coach Benjamin Mora exactly what he is capable of with a performance that was integral in JDT picking up all three points.
Southern Tigers roar at home again
The step up from the AFC Cup to the AFC Champions League is undoubtedly a huge one but JDT, who won the former in 2015, have offered plenty to show they are well worthy of a place in the Continent’s premier club competition since debuting last year.
While they are still seeking their first points on the road, the Southern Tigers already boast a proud record in front of home support as they followed up a memorable victory over Kashima Antlers in the 2019 group stage with another excellent result against another former Asian champion.
It's been a lovely night. Good Night, JDT fans! pic.twitter.com/hwka744P6E— JOHORSouthernTigers (@OfficialJohor) March 3, 2020
Mauricio was the hero in Sultan Ibrahim Stadium’s curtain-raiser against Kedah on Friday and it was the Brazilian defender who again stole the headlines in the first AFC Champions League game at the sparkling new venue.
But it is a team effort and this is a team that looks full of confidence in front of home support. As Cabrera alluded to after the game, JDT believe they can beat any visitors to southern Malaysia, where they have lost just once in four games on the Continent.
With Vissel Kobe and Guangzhou Evergrande still to visit, JDT will look to continue their momentum in their new surroundings as they aim to upset the odds in one of the strongest groups of the 2020 AFC Champions League.
Photos: Johor Darul Ta'zim
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