High five of JDT’s success
Updated: May 18, 2022
APRIL 30 will surely be a date etched in the hearts and minds of Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players, coaches, fans and their biggest supporter, club owner and Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim. For the first time in history, the Southern Tigers have got to the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League after topping Group I of the East zone with 13 points.
It will be a campaign to be remembered, especially their final game, where they needed a 93rd minute winner to confirm their spot in the next stage.
Here are five reasons why JDT’s campaign was exceptional.
Benjamin Mora’s tactical shrewdness
The Mexican was able to adjust his squad for every game. Except for the 0-5 defeat and 0-0 draw against Kawasaki Frontale, JDT showed great tactical discipline and hunger to win their other games. Plus, his antics on the touchline show how much he wanted his boys to have a strong outing in a top-level continental competition. In six games, his team scored 11 goals and conceded seven. After dominating the domestic scene, he has now announced that he is ready for the bigger stage!
When Tunku Ismail announced that Bergson Da Silva was lonely upfront, he may have already been planning an assault on the Champions League. The signing of Argentinian striker Fernando Forestieri has elevated JDT’s attack, and Bergson has benefited from it. Forestieri may have just scored one goal, but he is instrumental in tormenting defences and opening up spaces for other attackers. He also made five key passes during the competition. Da Silva was the team’s top scorer with six goals and showed that he could be lethal on the continental stage, just as he is on the domestic scene.
A young revolution
Two young players who stood out for JDT were winger Arif Aiman Hanapi and midfielder Nathaniel Shio Hong Wan. Arif, 19, did not show any fear of facing bigger defenders as he tormented them on the right and sometimes even on the left. In six matches, his dribbling success rate was at 50% (11/22), passing accuracy at 85% (142/168), and he made 11 key passes.
Hong Wan played four games, starting in two, but showed that he could be a long term replacement for Natxo Insa and a potential national midfielder. His passing accuracy was at 88% (243/277), made two key passes and six interceptions. He is still learning his trade but will surely get better in the years to come. A fully developed Arif and Hong Wan will benefit Harimau Malaya in the future.
Shahrul Saad still the best at the back
In his first group stage outing in the continental stage, the 28-year-old showed that he could mix it with the big boys, which augurs well for the national team. Whether in a two-man or three-man defensive line, he has shown remarkable adaptability during the tournament. In five games, “Badak” won 71% of his tackles (5/7), made 18 clearances, and his passing accuracy was at 88% (230/260). For sure, national coach Kim Pan-gon can rely on Shahrul to be the anchor for Malaysia during the final round of Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers.
JDT creating opportunities
JDT’s superb outing in the Champions League has seen them soaring up the AFC Club Competitions rankings. Each member association are ranked based on their clubs’ sporting results in the AFC Club Competitions over the previous four seasons. The final rankings at the end of the 2022 season will be used to allocate slots for AFC club competitions in 2024. The Southern Tigers are 10th in the overall rankings and fourth in the East zone standings.
If the rankings stand till the end of the year, Malaysia will have two clubs qualifying automatically for the Champions League, and another two will go through the playoffs in 2024.