Malaysian champion Johor Darul Ta’zim FC (JDT) is facing an arduous task to advance for the Round of 16 of the AFC Asian Champions League (ACL) after losing 0-2 to Korean giants Pohang Steelers in the second leg of Group G.
The loss at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok saw JDT now occupy third place in the group.
At present, JDT has lost two of their group matches and with two fixtures remaining against Nagoya Grampus and Ratchaburi, the Southern Tigers have no option but to win if they desire to advance from the group.
This season’s ACL campaign for JDT opened with a 1-0 loss to Japanese stalwarts Nagoya Grampus, albeit a nullified last-minute brace.
Their second match against Thailand’s Ratchaburi FC saw Leandro Velasquez controlled the game to secure a 1-0 win for the Southern Tigers.
In the first of two legs, JDT played Pohang with an energetic display and this was materialised by Leandro’s opener. However, fate had in store for Pohang as the Australian referee awarded three penalties to the Koreans that saw them win 1-4.
With four matches already played, JDT’s Brazilian ace Bergson Da Silva has since yet to find the net and understandably disappointed. His closest moment came during the match against Ratchaburi but the Thai keeper managed to block his shot.
Despite the hurdles, the Southern Tigers are the only Malaysian club that competed in the ACL for three consecutive seasons and won against their opponents in each edition.
Playing at the international level could boost Southeast Asian clubs’ qualities and values while helping to evolve the respective nation’s leagues to a higher level.
This season, four Thai clubs, two Filipino clubs and a Singaporean club, alongside JDT, are representing Southeast Asia in Asia’s flagship club competition.
THE BRUNEIAN | KUALA LUMPUR