Not since their defeat to 3-0 Gamba Osaka in the 2017 AFC Champions League playoff last year, had Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) suffered a more embarrassing defeat that they did to Muangthong United in the 2018 ACL preliminary match.
The Southern Tigers looked ill-prepared for the match as The Kirins ran riot at Supachalasai Stadium on Tuesday night to take their spot opposite of Kashiwa Reysol in the final playoff stage. Ulisses Morais' boys were cut open far too often and far too easily by Totchtawan Sripan's team and failed to react to shore up his team despite conceding early goals in the first half.
Morais named Syafiq Ahmad and Bruno Soares for their JDT debut while Jorge Pereyra Diaz gained a start as the tip of the front triumvirate. Sripan opted to have Adisak Kraison alongside Teerasil Dangda with Lee Ho and Sarach Yooyen managing the midfield area.
Both sides traded early blows with the home side almot opening the scoring in the 3rd minute but Theerathon Bunmathan's shot was blocked by Fazly Mazlan after a quick break following a JDT corner kick. Then Safiq Rahim had a shot pushed out by Kampon Phatomakkul in Muangthong's goal just three minutes later.
The Thai side would recreate the same move in the 8th minute and this time, they found the breakthrough. Adisak broke the offside trap after Fazly failed to step up in time and easily squared the ball for Sarach to score the opener.
Sripan had obviously instructed his team to look for the ball behind JDT's full backs and it was a ploy that got them their second goal as well. In the 21st minute, Heberty Andrade threaded a through ball for Theerathon to latch on beyond S. Kunanlan and he then played the simple pass for the on-rushing Tristan Do to tap in Muangthong's second of the night.
Muangthong would continue to be the more aggressive side in the match and would go into half time with an even bigger lead. In the 28th minute, Teerasil received the ball on the left hand side and danced his way into the penalty box before being brought down by Soares. Heberty step up confidently to send Izham Tarmizi the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Three nil down heading into half time, Morais was undoubtedly furious with the performance of his players. Hariss Harun, Kunanlan and Fazly were all culpable for their poor outing in the first half with Fazly not even allowed to finish the first half - substituted by Azrif Nasrulhaq with just a minute left on the clock.
Any hope of a comeback from JDT in the second half would be dashed just 12 minutes into the second period. Once again JDT's defensive line was caught out cold after Muangthong won possession inside JDT's half. Heberty fed Theerathon on the left hand side and the left back thundered in an accurate shot to the bottom corner of Izham's goal to make it 4-0 to Muangthong.
Izham would pick up the ball from his net again just five minutes later with the impressive Heberty getting his brace on the night. Teerasil had won a free kick at the edge of the box off Azrif and the Brazilian Heberty picked his spot to score the fifth goal for Muangthong.
Darren Lok was introduced to the play for the ineffective Syafiq as Morais tried to make the score more respectable for the away side but the change did very little to change the nature of the match. Frustration started to creep into side and the anonymous Diaz and Darren received yellow cards for some overzealous challenges.
The returning Argentine did come into life after the 90 minutes had passed, grabbing a brace of goals but it was nothing more than a consolation goal for Malaysia's top team.
The 5-2 final result is a sizable one that probably did not reflect the true gap between the two teams but on a night of important qualifier to Asia's premier cup competition, only one side looked like they had the right build-up, preparation and tactics - which was reflected by the outcome.