AFC Cup Talking Points: Gamble pays off for JDT while disaster strikes Felda

Malaysia Super League (MSL) sides Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Felda United had contrasting fortunes in the AFC Cup again, only this time the tables were turned. FourFourTwo highlights the talking points from Match-day 5. 

JDT reserves get the job done

Benjamin Mora took a big risk on Wednesday when he opted to rest a number of first teamers against Cambodian outfit Boeung Ket ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final second leg against Pahang at Larkin Stadium on Sunday.

The 3-0 win in Phnom Penh ensured JDT welcome Pahang on a four-match winning streak

The rotation policy at JDT had worked under former coach Mario Gomez, but the Southern Tigers have produced mixed results under the Mexican, especially in the AFC Cup. No longer in the driving seat of Group F, no one expected Mora to make such drastic changes.

All four imports were rested while local stars such Safiq Rahim, Farizal Marlias, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri and Afiq Fazail were also left out of the line-up. Mora even played right-sided player Mahali Jasuli in centre midfield.

The 3-0 win in Phnom Penh ensured JDT welcome Pahang on a four-match winning streak since their 3-1 defeat in the first leg.

Mora's sizeable risk paid off

Playing without strikers

There were surprises all over the pitch as Mora opted for the likes of Haziq Nadzli in goal and youngster Dominic Tan in defence, but he pulled a major rabbit out of the hat by playing without a striker.

It wasn’t until Gabriel Guerra came on in the 81st minute that the MSL champions had a recognised forward on the pitch.

Yet using Safawi Rasid’s pace up front provided the lead when he raced to the ball after a defence-splitting pass from Nazmi just eight minutes into the match. The second and third goal also came from fast breaks.

JDT, however, are unlikely to play without a striker again anytime soon as in this match, the visitors aimed to keep things very tight at the back and hit their opponents on the break, a very rare occurrence.

Nazmi grabs attention

Once a teenage prodigy when he announced his arrival at the 2011 SEA Games, where Malaysia won the gold medal, Nazmi displayed the creativity that gave him prominence in Harimau Muda.

He sent a long range pass above the defence to Safawi for the first goal and then found the back of the net with a first-time lob over custodian Sou Yaty from outside the box. The goalkeeper had rushed out to make a second clearance after miscuing the first.

Nazmi also put in a good shift in ensuring Boeung Ket struggled for space in the middle of the park.

Having arrived from Selangor this season, Nazmi will be hoping his time down south helped mould him into the midfielder he was expected to be. He added defensive qualities to his game while with the Red Giants and a regular spot in the national team could be on the horizon.

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