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Figueroa thrilled with JDT's momentum ahead of second ACL match

09:04 GMT+3 10/03/2019
Nazmi Faiz, Johor Darul Ta'zim v PKNP, Super League, 9 Mar 2019
With the games coming thick and fast, JDT are showing they have the squad to compete on all fronts after 3rd straight Super League win.

Johor Darul Ta'zim completed their first AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage match against Kashima Antlers on Tuesday, returned to Johor Bahru on Wednesday to prepare to play PKNP FC on Saturday. After the PKNP match, it's only a 72 hours break before they take on Gyeongnam FC in the first ACL clash at Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium.

With the high number of matches that JDT are involved in and so very little turnaround time, it is a big test on the strength of the squad that they have and against PKNP, they passed the test with flying colours. Afiq Fazail, Safawi Rasid and Syafiq Ahmad were given a breather with Nazmi Faiz, Leandro Velazquez and Akhyar Rashid replacing them.

It was the right refreshment to the team that JDT needed as they handed PKNP a 3-0 beating to go back up top of the Super League ahead of Pahang, who had temporarily taken hold of the top spot for 24 hours. Team manager, Luciano Figueroa was particularly happy with the output from the fringe players that came into the side.

"We did a very good game. This is the character we need from JDT after a tough game against Kashima. Even after the long trip, they still gave 100% and were very good tonight (Saturday). Very important to be on top in the table.The good thing today was the mobility of the players."

"We decided to put Nazmi and Leandro in the middle because we knew this game was going to be very difficult because they sit back. When they play like this, it'll be difficult for us to break the lines," said Figueroa after the match.

His name dominated the headlines during the pre-season with Kedah FA refusing to budge on their stance. After six matches in the Super League and one in the ACL, Akhyar finally made his debut start for his new team and he continues the momentum that he created in Japan.

Velazquez, Diogo Luis Santo and Gonzalo Cabrera may have grabbed the goals in the win but Akhyar's performance also did not go unnoticed and for Figueroa, it is important that the youngster continues to apply himself well in his adaptation to the his new team. 

"He has played every game. He has to adapt to the team. We need all players at the same level. He had a good pre-season and he showed that he can play. We have a lot of games and we are very happy to see him able to come in and do a job," added Figueroa.

JDT will next play Gyeongnam on Tuesday in Group E of the 2019 ACL. Unlike JDT, Gyeongnam suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Incheon United on Saturday,

 

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