BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The AFC Champions League remains a bridge too far for Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT), after they were beaten 3-0 by Japan's Gamba Osaka in the second qualifying match on Tuesday evening, at the Suita City Football Stadium, Japan.
The homeside's head coach Kenta Hasegawa fielded both their Brazilian foreign players Ademilson and Fábio, as well as their South Korean defender Oh Jae-suk.
The Malaysian side meanwhile had only three foreigners to field in the match, as Jerónimo Barrales had been sent off in their first qualifying round last week, against Bangkok United. Skipper Safiq Rahim was fielded, alongside wingers Azamuddin Akil and Safawi Rasid, as well as centre back Fadhli Shas.
The visitors could have gone in front in the fifth minute, when Osaka goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi messed up his clearance, which was received by Kunanlan Subramaniam outside the penalty area. But the wing back was too slow to react to the opportunity.
The first goal came in the 25th minute, following a series of passes by the Japanese club. A cross from the left was met by Ademilson's header, who did not miss.
They made it 2-0 just three minutes later, again from another exchange of passes, this time finished by forward Shun Nagasawa. The striker finished a short pass from the left with his first touch from inside the JDT box, straight into the far corner.
Such was the gulf in quality between the two sides, that it was obvious that Gamba Osaka were not playing with their usual level of intensity, and they pulled back again following their second goal. The first half ended 2-0.
Although JDT head coach Benjamin Mora brought on Nazmi Faiz Mansor and Mahali Jasuli for Azamuddin and Safawi Rasid, the homeside made it three in the 69th minute through new signing Genta Miura's header, following a corner kick. The goal was also the 21-year old's first ever goal for Osaka.
The match ended in a 3-0 win to the 2008 AFC Champions League winners, and the Southern Tigers would feel hard done in stumbling at the final hurdle, despite having advanced as furthest as they have ever had in the competition. They will now take part in the 2017 AFC Cup instead.
Gamba Osaka: Masaaki Higashiguchi (GK), Genta Miura, Fábio, Hiroki Fujiharu, Yasuhito Endō (C) (Jin Izumisawa 80'), Yosuke Ideguchi, Ademilson (Ritsu Doan 88'), Shu Kurata, Yasuyuki Konno, Shun Nagasawa, Oh Jae-suk
JDT: Farizal Marlias (GK), Azammuddin Akil (Mahali Jasuli 55'), Amirul Hadi Zainal, Marcos Antonio, Safiq Rahim (C), Brian Ferreira, Gonzalo Cabrera, S. Kunanlan, Fazly Mazlan, Fadhli Shas, Safawi Rasid (Nazmi Faiz Mansor 65')