It was a night to forget for reigning Malaysia Super League champions, Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) as they went down meekly to Muangthong United in the 2018 AFC Champions League preliminary round. The 5-2 defeat showcased just how more work need to be put into the side ahead of their 2018 season both in the Malaysian domestic league as well as the AFC Cup.
Goal look at a few of the talking points from yesterday's match.
Defence in disarray, Antonio still a very big miss
Of those who played yesterday, probably only Fadhli Shas came out with any sort of credit, and that too only on par and not particularly great. Bruno Soares, Fazly Mazlan and S. Kunanlan were all culpable at time throughout the match that made JDT looked chaotic when defending. Two from trio did not last or rather weren't allowed to last the full duration of the match, highlighting their poor performances.
Ever since Antonio did his ankle towards the end of the 2017 season, JDT have not looked secured in defence. In Soares, there are shades of Jeronimo Barrales from last season. Brought in and discarded quite quickly due to lack of quality. It's only his first match and 79 minutes played but Soares did not show enough that he could match the contribution that Antonio normally provides to the defence.
The form of Fazly remains a puzzling one, the left back has been on a downward slide since the second half of last season and looked to still be dogged by poor positioning. One which saw him being the culprit in the defence line that allowed Muangthong to break the offside trap for their opening goal. Something that perhaps is already addressed by the signing of La'Vere Corbin-Ong but the jury is still out on the once Canadian international until he proves it on the pitch.
Jorge Pereyra Diaz need to stop theatrics and used better
Largely anonymous throughout the match, Diaz spent most of his time trying to incite the opponent and produced a couple of theatrical moments which the match officials did not fall for. An individual blessed with splendid touch and dribbling abilities, Diaz would do well to concentrate on that side of his game rather than the unnecessary, no matter how frustrated he was at the lack of time on the ball or the result.
Did not impress being put as the central striker. Was kept under a tight watch by the Muangthong defence, Diaz is a different player with his back towards goal compared to the other way around. Grabbed his two goals late on very well but that came when he was able to be fed in wider positions which allowed him to utilise his dribbling skills. Could look a different proposition once Luciano Figueroa is started centrally.
Separated midfield needs time to gel
Against a Muangthong side who had Sarach Yooyen, Lee Ho and Heberty Andrade in midfield, JDT's midfield did not protect themselves well and the gap between their own trio allowed the Thai team the chance to dominate and control proceedings from the centre of the pitch.
Hariss Harun was left to plough the lone job in central midfield with Sarach and Heberty in particular easily running rings around him. The Singaporean also had a poor night in terms of his distribution, often times failing to make the pass and the Muangthong benefited from the turnaround with JDT runners higher up the pitch anticipating attacking moves. After a season away from the team, Hariss definitely needs time and games to readjust his rhythm to JDT's tune again.
Ulisses Morais may have wanted the duo of Ignacio Insa and Safiq Rahim to be further up so that they can support the attack but blame can also be laid at the Portuguese for not rectifying the shape of the midfield as the match progressed on.
Photos: Johor Southern Tigers