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Diogo's brilliance guides JDT past stubborn Selangor

16:01 WAT 01/03/2019
Diogo Luis Santo, Selangor v Johor Darul Ta'zim, Super League, 1 Mar 2019
Diogo had his hand in 3 of the goals scored and for the first time since, JDT have found the Figueroa replacement they have so sorely missed.

Johor Darul Ta'zim continues their unbeaten start to the 2019 Super League season with a nervy 2-4 win over Selangor at Shah Alam Stadium that saw them retake top spot in the table, albeit for 24 hours before Kedah take on PKNS FC on Saturday.

Diogo Luis Santo was signed for big money during the pre-season, convincing the Buriram United top goal scorer to part ways with the Thai champions. In just his fifth game for his new club, Diogo is already showing the JDT fans what they have been missing since 2016.

Luciano Figueroa the current team manager broke his retirement to return briefly for JDT last season but in truth was not the same player that departed the club back in 2016. The Argentine was undoubtedly the best import that The Southern Tigers have signed in the short time since their reincarnation but his place at the top of the pantheon is seriously under threat by the new Brazilian.

The 31-year-old had missed out on starting the opening league match against Perak because he was still nursing an injury but in the subsequent four matches including this one against Selangor, is showing that he needs little adaptation period with his new club and while still finding his feet, is already starting to repay a large chunk of his transfer fees.

Already with two goals in his pocket prior to the match in Round 5, Diogo produced an immaculate first half where he not only added to his goal tally but also came up with two assists in a pulsating first half that saw the away side going in at half time with a slender lead.

The goal Diogo scored in the 14th minute was a classic poacher's goal, having found himself in the right place and right time to pounce on the rebound after Khairulazhan Khalid had spilled Leandro Velazquez's shot. But it was his contribution in the other two goals that showed his calibre.

Reading and having an understanding of the runs that his team mates make, Diogo had already laid on the first goal of the night for Velazquez in the 7th minute before producing an excellent reverse through ball in the 42nd minute for Gonzalo Cabrera to grab JDT's third before half time.

Selangor did provide some measure of resistance having gone two goals down very early on with Endrick Dos Santos scoring his first ever goal for The Red Giants in the 33rd minute with an outstanding long range shot that had Farizal Marlias grasping for thin ar. 

For all their splendour going forward, the JDT defence had not looked inpenetrable and proceeded to concede for the second time in the match when Rufino Segovia reduced the deficit with a strike in the 45th minute of the match. 

A defence that had Francisco 'Kiko' Insa getting not only his first start but also his first taste of competitive football this season alongside the returning Mauricio dos Santos meant that there could be some rustiness involved and was compounded by the latter's injury in the 72nd minute that saw him replaced by Adam Nor Azlin.

The rip roaring game play did not continue as expectedly in the second half as JDT exerted a form of control of the match to snuff out the momentum that the home side had going into the half time break. But JDT remained dangerous when they go forward and punished another weak Khairulazhan parry in the 68th minute to increase their lead.

Cabrera went on a slalom run from the left and his stinging shot stung Khairulazhan's gloves but fell right onto the path of the on-rushing Velazquez who gleefully accepted the invitation to score his second on the night from the tight angle.

On a night when Safawi Rasid was below par, Diogo has the limelight for himself as JDT went on to secure their first win on the road this season, having drawn at Terengganu FC in their only other away league match of the season thus far.

Bigger challenges than Selangor will come and that begins immediately with the Kashima Antlers match in midweek as JDT make their AFC Champions League group stage debut but as the man in-form, they will undoubtedly be resting their hope on the big Brazilian to help them to a surprise result against the Japanese juggernaut.

 

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