Mora lauds importance of Diogo's late goal to JDT's ACL challenge

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It was a defeat for Johor Darul Ta'zim in their first ever AFC Champions League group stage match but a late consolation could spark better times.

JDT went into the match against reigning champions Kashima Antlers knowing that they are facing their biggest ever test in the history of the football club. A 2-1 defeat means that they leave Japan without a point but there were still plenty of positives that they could take from this humbling first experience.

To put things into context, Kashima and Go Oiwa fielded a much changed side swapping six players out from the team that drew against Kawasaki Frontale at the weekend and still proved to be too strong for JDT. Individual mistakes didn't help as the Japanese side scored on either side of half time.

But JDT can only play what's in front of them and they can take some pride in the manner which they held Kashima off and offered stiff resistance to Kashima with Hariss Harun, Afiq Fazail and Syafiq Ahmad required to put in a substantial amount of work in midfield.

Serginho, Kashima v Johor Darul Ta'zim, AFC Champions Leauge, 5 Mar 2019

"Our team is happy. We're happy because we made our first appearance in the ACL group stage versus the champions. The champions that played Real Madrid and Chivas, and did very well. For us it's a big challenge, not to come and beat the team. But it was a big challenge to come to this stadium with the personality and try to show that we are proud to represent Malaysia." 

"The game we knew it was going to be tough. We studied 4-5 of their games but inside the pitch, still very hard because Kashima play in another level. We have an opportunity now to go back and improve on the things we didn't so well," said Benjamin Mora in the post-match press conference.

Takashi Kanamori's innocuous cross in the 43rd minute was misjudged by Farizal Marlias and allowed to bend into goal without anyone getting another touch on the ball. Then La'Vere Corbin-Ong's poor touch saw the ball rolling nicely for Serginho to smash an unstoppable shot into the top corner in the 56th minute.

JDT did come back strongly late in the game, especially after Akhyar Rashid came on for Safawi Rasid. The former won the free kick in the 80th minute that culminated in Diogo Luis Santo becoming the first ever goal scorer for a Malaysian team in the ACL.

Diogo Luis Santo, Kashima v Johor Darul Ta'zim, AFC Champions Leauge, 5 Mar 2019

For Mora, that goal also ticks off one of their targets for the competition and should relax the players ahead of further matches in the group stage. The JDT head coach will be pouring over the videos of Gyeongnam FC who drew 2-2 with Shandong Luneng in the other group match before the two face each other next Tuesday.

"It means a lot (to score). It means that we accomplished the first task that is try to score. We try to press in the game as much as we can. Even though some of the foreign players did not play, their local players are still very good. We tried everything and thankfully we had a set piece that we managed to convert." 

"For the players it can be a very motivational goal to take back to Johor and aim to improve. It's a shame that we couldn't score a second one which could've been very good for the players. But the score 2-1 it's okay and Kashima deserved the two goals," added Mora. 

 

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