JDT fell to a heavy 5-1 defeat at the hands of Vissel Kobe, marked by a very impressive AFC Champions League debut for one Andres Iniesta.
If the 2019 outing in the same competition opened a lot of eyes to the quality that Johor Darul Ta’zim possess, it can be said that the opponents are far more wary of what the Malaysian champions could do and Vissel Kobe took no chances with their team selection and proceeded to hand The Southern Tigers a humbling defeat at Noevir Stadium Kobe.
Keijiro Ogawa may have got the hattrick of goals but it was none other than a 35-year-old Andres Iniesta who ran the show and produced a masterclass in Vissel’s first run out in the ACL. The Spaniard laid on the assist for two of the five goals scored by the home side and was constantly at the hub of almost every attacking move.
Despite a brief respite following a Safawi Rasid penalty conversion that levelled proceedings after Ogawa had put the host ahead, trouble was already brewing for the Malaysian side who was a pale shadow of the high standards which they have set themselves. Almost to the man, they were struggling to match Vissel and the result highlighted the disparity.
Kyogo Furahashi, two more from Ogawa and a fifth from new recruit, Douglas hammered home the dominance shown by Vissel. JDT were all over the place and this with what is effectively their best starting eleven bar maybe Leandro Velasquez for Nazmi Faiz or Ignacio ‘Natxo’ Insa for Afiq Fazail meant it’s back to the drawing board for Benjamin Mora and his coaching staff.
The disorganisation was evident from particularly in defence and midfield. Aidil Zafuan and Mauricio dos Santos looked like strangers playing next to each other with large gaps appearing throughout the match. The normally dependable Hariss Harun fought a losing lonely battle in central midfield with neither Afiq nor Nazmi affording him any sort of protection.
Up front, Gonzalo Cabrera was an anonymous figure with his trademark jinking runs hardly seen in the match. Diogo Luis Santo and Safawi Rasid tried to bring the fight to the Japanese team but on their own, were easily snuffed out by the combination of Leo OSaki and Thomas Vermaelen at the heart of Vissel’s defence.
Given how his side performed on the night, there would be little arguments from Mora on the score. Luckily for them, the Guangzhou Evergrande match has been postponed from 19 February to 20 May which would give him plenty of time to ponder upon just what went wrong in this match.
It was a collective off night for JDT and that is something that has rarely happen in recent times. So while this was a heavy defeat that deserved plenty of introspection, it is unlikely that in the subsequent group matches that JDT could play any worse than they did against Vissel.
While Vissel looked great, one would be hard pressed to see them being this effective and dangerous without the mastermind Iniesta running matters. But they do and that is something that JDT and the rest of the competition will have sit up and take notice, for today the 2010 World Cup winner announced himself in the biggest club competition in Asia.
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