BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
After the dissappointment of their Asian Champions League qualifiers exit, JDT must surely want to excel in the AFC Cup which they automatically qualified for following the exit. Their first ever venture into the AFC Cup saw them took on India's East Bengal FC at home, a group match they had to win to hit the ground running in the competition, and also to notch their first win in three matches.
But JDT headcoach Bojan Hodak appeared to not to want to go all out for the match, opting to bench all of their foreign signings, except for Singaporean midfielder Hariss Harun. In their stead was local players S. Chanturu, Nazrin Nawi, and Asraruddin Putra. National team forward Safee Sali also made a rare start. Replacing Farizal Marlias between the sticks was former junior national team goalkeeper, Izham Tarmizi who was back from a long-term injury.
East Bengal meanwhile went into the match having acquired the service of their manager Eelco Schattorie only one week earlier. They too have not won their previous three matches.
The Southern Tigers did not take long to open accounts. In the ninth minute, Nazrin buried a freekick into the top corner from 20 meters out, after Chanturu was fouled moments earlier.
In the 17th minute, skipper Safiq Rahim and Chanturu almost combined well to double the homeside's lead after Safiq dribbled his way into the Bengal penalty area. But Chanturu could not expect the subsequent pass which Safiq directed at him, despite being in a good position to put it in the back of the net.
Five minutes later, Chanturu's dangerous diagonal pass in the Bengal penalty box was blocked by a defender into the path of Safee, but the forward was not alert enough to pounce on it.
Two minutes later, Safee dribbled his way into the visitors' danger area, but could not bend his subsequent shot enough to bury it in the back of the net.
But against the run of play, the visitors equalised in the 35th minute. Mohammed Rafique was fouled right at the edge of the JDT penalty box, and the subsequent freekick taken by Ranti Martins took a wicked deflection off the wall, which Izham could not save.
However, reprieve fortuitously came just a minute later when East Bengal defender Milan Susak was adjuged to have handled the ball in his own penalty area. Safiq stepped up calmly to put it past goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal.
One minute from halftime, Martins beat Izham for the position in the penalty box when vying for a cross, but his header went over the bar.
The first half ended a very entertaining 2-1 to the homeside.
When the second half commenced, JDT did not take long to double their lead. In the 49th minute, Jasazrin managed to break the offside trap, before sending in a low cross from the left that was then stabbed in by the onrushing Chanturu.
They were three up four minutes later in a brilliant fashion, this time from Safee Sali. Nazrin eluded the defense from the left before sending in a short cross. The unmarked Safee, with his back to the goal, decided to try for a bicycle kick and beat Mondal successfully.
Afterwards Hodak took off Safiq, perhaps to rest him for this Saturday's FA Cup cruncher against Pahang, and brought in Mahali Jasuli. That slowed down the homeside's play a little and they lost a bit of their earlier aggressiveness.
In the 71st minute, Nigerian forward Dudu Omagbemi got on the end of a cross from the right, but he was put under a lot of pressure by the defenders and put his shot wide.
Rafique had the chance to pull one back 10 minutes from time, but his shot, taken close to the edge of the JDT box, veered wide.
Tried as they might, the visitors could not add more goals to the one they scored in the first half, and the match finished 4-1 to the homeside.
JDT next take on Pahang this Saturday, whereas their next AFC Cup match is in March, against Singaporean side Balestier Khalsa, just across the Causeway.