JDT denied AFC Cup first-leg victory by stoppage time South China strike

Serbian Nicola Komazec’s late equaliser denied defending AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) a quarter-final first-leg win after a balanced match in Hong Kong.

While JDT failed to hang on to their a lead, the 1-1 result still ensured Safiq Rahim and company would welcome their opponents to Larkin with the knowledge they must score to progress to the next round. JDT have not lost at Larkin this season.

The Southern Tigers, who sealed a record third straight Malaysia Super League (MSL) title last Friday night, will be fresh for the second leg as they do not have domestic matches scheduled until after the return clash.

It was difficult to tell JDT and South China apart after 90 minutes as the former’s dominance in the first-half changed hands when the hosts controlled proceedings after the break in their search for an equaliser.

A lapse of concentration by South China goalkeeper Leung Hing Kit had gifted JDT the lead after 22 minutes.

Diaz's first-half strike was eventually cancelled out

Argentine Jorge Pereyra Diaz managed to squeeze a low shot through the defenders after a scramble but instead of a routine catch, Leung watched the ball roll just a few inches away from him and into the goal.

South China, who had enjoyed little possession at that point, pressed with more urgency in the following minutes but it was only a matter of time before Safiq and Hariss Harun dominated the midfield once more, forcing the hosts to retreat.

South China came out the better of the two teams after half-time and JDT did not have the answers to regain control of the match, reduced to attempts on the break. Neither goalkeepers, however, were given a stern test as both teams kept it compact at the back.

That was until Komazec found the back of the net after collecting the ball from Marcos Antonio’s weak clearance and managing a thunderous shot in stoppage time despite being marked by two players.

Photos: JDT