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Johor DT dispatch South China to book historic AFC Cup semi-final spot

Johor DT have become the first Southeast Asian side to march into the AFC Cup semi-finals for two consecutive years after a resounding win over Hong Kong’s South China AA.

The first leg bout between both sides finished 1-1, courtesy of Antonio Komazec’s last-gasp equalizer. But with JDT returning to the Tan Sri Haji Hassan Yunus stadium for the second leg, there was one clear favourite from the get go.

Within five minutes into the first half, it was evident that South China were more than ready to put it a strong shift. On the 7th minute mark, Mahama Awal found space on the left edge of the penalty box, before unleashing a lethal shot. Fortunately for the home side, the attmpt was well wide of the target.

11 minutes later, the Cameroonian surged forward with the ball, yet again, before cutting back for Nikola Komazec. The Serbian forward fired a shot, that was ultimately tipped away by Izham Tarmizi.

JDT were handed a blow on the 30th minute as S. Kunanlan was forced to be substituted, due to an injury. In return, Azrif Nasrulhaq was brought on as a direct replacement. 7 minutes later, Diaz produced an astute through ball for Safiq, only for the onrushing Man Fai to tip it away, before colliding against the ex-Malaysian international.

Mario Gomez eventually got his players to up their tempo after the break, as they switched to a deeper defensive line, to nullify the threat posed by South China’s pacey forwards.

Five minutes into the second half, Man Fai clattered into Diaz inside his own penalty box, leaving the referee with no options but to point to the spot. But the South China goalkeeper managed to compose himself in time to produce a stunning save, denying Safiq Rahim’s attempt to put JDT 1-0 ahead.

But it didn’t take long for JDT to eventually break the deadlock as Lucero scored merely seven minutes later to make it 1-0, after a fantastic assist from Azamuddin Akil. The goal allowed JDT to be a lot more comfortable on the ball as pressure was now off their shoulders.

South China responded by introducing ex-Sarawak hitman Ryan Griffiths into the game to try and salvage an equaliser. But JDT’s instantly produced a response as well. They brought off Azamuddin for Gary Steven Robbat, who gave them the extra bit of protection in midfield – it was evident that Mario Gomez was looking to shut the shop.

However, when Jorge Diaz fired JDT’s second goal of the night on the 88th minute mark, South China’s hopes were effectively destroyed as the Southern Tigers cruised into the semi-finals for the second consecutive year.

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