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Figueroa confident JDT will learn from harsh lesson in ACL opener

Nothing went right for Johor Darul Ta’zim at Noevir Stadium Kobe as Vissel ran riot and Luciano Figueroa is hope that the players can learn from it.

Apart from the opening exchanges in the first half when JDT almost took the lead through Diogo Luis Santo who inexplicably headed over from just under the bar, it was a one way traffic in this solitary Group G encounter of the AFC Champions League (ACL) with the final 5-1 result showcasing the beating the Malaysian champions took on the night.

The star billing that is Andres Iniesta lived up to the expectations, running the show for Vissel and demonstrating to JDT what is required at this level of football. Having himself played at similar levels, JDT’s team manager Figueroa was adamant that this is just a one-off and that he fully expects his side to learn plenty from the humbling experience.

“We played well in the first 15 minutes, but we slowed down a little bit after that. I think the problem after the third goal was that we stopped believing. You forget everything when you stop believing — what we do in training, our philosophy and our tactics. We are all aware that Vissel Kobe is a top-class team, the biggest spending Japanese team. The owners even sponsored Barcelona.

“They spent a lot in terms of football philosophy and they have done it very very well. The Japanese national players, including Iniesta, is top class. I think our players were also a bit starstruck with Iniesta. They were not coming in like usual and they were looking at him more, and that ball watching punished us.

“But this is a good learning process for us to grow and understand what it takes to be playing at the highest level,” said Figueroa in a statement put out on the club’s official page.

As for Vissel, their performance put a real marker on the rest of the competition that despite this being their inaugural participation in the ACL, they do have one it takes to be one of the major contender for the trophy. Head coach Thorsten Fink grabbed the opportunity to switch from his preferred 3-4-2-1 formation to a more attacking 4-3-3 and it paid off for him.

“We knew we would have more ball possession and we wanted to play more offence. It was the right decision to play the way we did and it’s not good for our opponents because they don’t know how we will play in the future. It’s good for my team that they know that we can change the system and we can play more systems,” said Fink in the post-match press conference.

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