The road to the AFC Cup final: How did JDT get there?

Johor Darul Ta'zim's fairytale continental adventure started way back in February with a 2-1 win over Bengaluru FC. Vijhay Vick takes a look at how the club dazzled their way to an unprecedented AFC Cup final...

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The Southern Tigers etched their names in the Malaysian history books after becoming the first Malaysia Super League (MSL) side to reach the AFC Cup last four. Mario Gomez’s men now stand a chance of winning the coveted Asian trophy against Istiklol in Dushanbe on October 31.

The Pamir Stadium is the home of the Tajikistani side and having already seen the hosts trounce another Malaysian side, Pahang, 4-0 in the quarter-finals on the same artificial pitch in August, the Southern Tigers have their work cut out for them later this week.

AFC Champions League qualifying

By virtue of winning the 2014 MSL title, JDT were given an opportunity to qualify for the continent’s premier tournament. All that stood in their way were three preliminary rounds with failure at any point  meaning the team would drop into the AFC Cup instead.

First up were I-League winners Bengaluru at the Larkin Stadium on February 4. Singaporean midfielder Hariss Harun gave JDT the lead in the 47th minute but the visitors made JDT pay for a host of squandered chances with Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s equaliser with barely a minute left to play.

S Chanturu, who came off the bench for make-shift right winger Mahali Jasuli in the second half, made it 2-1 in extra time to set up a mouth watering clash against Bangkok Glass in round two.

The visit to the Leo Stadium on February 10 showed just how far ahead the Thai Premier League (TPL) teams were compared to others in the region. Bangkok Glass, who won the FA Cup and finished 10th in the TPL, ended up comfortable 3-0 winners.

JDT’s cause were only made tougher by the unavailability of creative lynchpin Luciano Figueroa, Amri Yahyah and Safee Sali. The club took the result on the chin, proud of playing on the continental stage in just the third season since their revolution began.