Group H drew to a close last night in the AFC Cup and going into it, it really was all to play for. Persija, Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA) and Johor Darul Ta’zim (Johor DT) all had the opportunity to keep their dreams alive.
Johor Darul Ta’zim Needed To Win By Three
The best Johor DT could hope for was second place as their H2H record with Persija would’ve prevented them from taking top spot. SLNA and Johor DT faced one another while Persija took on the other side in Group H, Tampines Rovers.
It was a toss-up on which game to focus the report on, however, when you see the break down of the goals, it was easy to opt for Johor DT vs SLNA which ended up with a much closer scoreline than it perhaps should’ve done.
In case you’re wondering, Persija beat Tampines Rovers 4-2 and while it may have seemed like Tampines could pull off an upset in Singapore when Jordan Webb levelled for them, Persija simply turned it on, went 4-1 up and that was that. Job done.
Thirty-Six Minutes On The Clock And We Had A Goal
Now onto the main game. For Johor DT to finish above SLNA, they would have to better SLNA’s 2-0 win in the reverse fixture which took place back in February, meaning there was always going to be goals in this.
Perhaps, the most surprising thing was that it took until the 36th minute for the deadlock to be broken. Johor DT’s Safawi Rasid struck from the edge of the area after Natxo Insa’s smart lay-off. Tran Van Tien in the SLNA goal really should have kept the drive out, somehow though, it ended up finding its way past him.
Tran Van Tien didn’t stand a chance with the second which followed only three minutes later as a delightful delivery from La’Vere Corbin was headed into the top corner by Syafiq Ahmad and with only six minutes remaining in the first-half, things looked pretty bleak for the Vietnamese side.
We’ve touched on the fact that Johor DT needed to win by three clear goals to be certain of second place, what we haven’t mentioned is that if SLNA came away with even a point, it would put them top of the ‘second-placed teams’ table and would put the onus on Home United to get a result against the imperious Ceres.
SLNA Just Needed A Point To Go Top
SLNA seemingly remembered this a couple of minutes after Ahmad’s header as an out-swinging corner was eventually struck from the edge of the box by Nguyen Viet Nguyen and via a deflection or two, it found its way in.
Game on. Rather incredibly, there was still time for another goal before half-time as SLNA got back into the game good and proper. From the opposite side, Dau Thanh Phong whipped a corner into a dangerous area and before Johor keeper, Izham Tarmizi, could get there it was met by the head of Ho Tuan Tai and if things stayed as they were, SLNA would potentially reach the knockout stages of the AFC Cup.
Half-time arrived not too long after Ho Tuan Tai’s equaliser and after surviving wave after wave of Johor DT attacks, SLNA would certainly be the happier of the two sides at the interval.
Considering there were four goals in the final ten minutes of the first-half, you’re probably expecting that the flurry continued after the break. Well, you’re wrong. SLNA were happy with the point, Johor DT were not and you could sense the frustration building within them.
It Was A Stonewall Penalty
Surely SLNA couldn’t complete the turnaround? In the 67th minute, a penalty was awarded. Which way? To Johor. It was a stonewall penalty as Sy Nam blocked a shot with his hand with his arm in a completely unnatural position.
Safiq Rahim versus Tran Van Tien. If it goes in, Johor DT still have over twenty minutes to find two more goals, if it doesn’t, the stuffing would truly be knocked out of them. Tran Van Tien guessed the right way! Despite this, Rahim still made it 3-2 to Johor DT as the penalty was too precise to be stopped.
As much as Johor DT tried to get that three-goal lead, it wasn’t meant to be as the goals stopped after the penalty so that means SLNA sit 2nd in the ‘second-placed table’, however, they can still qualify for the knockout stages should Home United get pumped by Ceres.
Ceres Have Nothing To Play For
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, I just can’t see Ceres scoring enough especially when you consider that they qualify regardless of the result.
One thing I can tell you, I’ll be back tomorrow with a round-up of what’s happened, so if you want to know anything AFC Cup related, you can find it here!
Until the next time.