It wasn't the result that Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) would have wanted before the match had kicked-off. However, there's no need to press the panic button just yet as JDT will still be taking a 3-2 lead, going into the second leg at Philippines against Ceres-Negros FC in the AFC Cup ASEAN zone semi-final.
Benjamin Mora's boys were pushed hard throughout the 90 minutes on Wednesday night at Tan Sri Hj. Hassan Yunos Stadium, a game worthy of being used to highlight the high quality of football that the AFC Cup can offer.
Head coach Mora was full of praise for the opposition after the match and pinpointed the reason why his side were unable to gain a bigger margin from the first leg.
"This was a very tough game. Ceres is a good team. In their offensive block, they play good football. They are fast. They are good individuals and they shape very well when they lose the ball. It was not easy for us but we fought every minute," said Mora.
As for the return fixture the conundrum is whether to protect the lead or to go out and find the necessary away goal - a balance that Mora will seek to find in the coming weeks leading up to the match.
"Over there we must be very patient and very order because we lead 3-2. The away two goals may affect us if we are not concentrated to manage the game we want but we will work on it."
"We’re going be intelligent and open minded about how this team can affect us if we are too open. But we’re not going to be defensive, we’re not a defensive team, that is not our asset. We can mix and vary our team with good defence and organisation. We’re going to go minute by minute," explained Mora.
In last night's match, Mora field Afiq Fazail as the lone covering central midfielder. A big task for the youngster considering Safiq Rahim and Gabriel Guerra were considerably further forward, pushing the attack going. At times, it left JDT rather exposed, perhaps a tad too offensive a line-up for a match of this magnitude.
"Maybe [too offensive XI]. But I think if we are not an offensive in our home ground, what is there expect when we go away. Our style is to attack and to dominate the game by having the ball."
"Afiq is a great player and one of the best with the ball. Maybe we were too offensive but if you analyse – the goals were only counters and mistakes, we were not always under attack. But this team is quality and with one or two chances, they can take it."
The second leg comes in the middle of the fasting month but Mora is adamant that it is important for the club and the team to respect the individuals and it'll require better planning on their part to ensure that they will still be able to give their 100% in the match at Bacolod City.
"I know the difficulties about not being 100% in the nutrition. But it’s also important for the boys to respect their religion and culture. We will make an effort to do the best we can so that it will not be such a problem," added Mora.