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Terengganu hold JDT in pulsating draw as Diogo shows calibre

11:50 PM SGT 15/2/19
Diogo Luis Santo, Terengganu v Johor Darul Ta'zim, Super League, 15 Feb 2019
Starting a match for his new club for the first time, Diogo Luis Santo showed glimpses in the 2-2 draw with TFC, why JDT paid the big bucks for him.

Many players would have gone hiding after horrendously missing a penalty kick but not Diogo, the Brazilian just brushed off error and led the line for Johor Darul Ta'zim FC in a way that is unlike what the previous incumbents of the role had shown for the club.

Alhaji Kamara, Daniel Guiza, Martin Lucero and even Luciano Figueroa have all donned the colours of JDT in the past as the leading striker but none of them can provide the all-round display that Diogo showed in the first full 90 minutes that he has played for the club.

Not just a striker who plays strictly next to the last line of defence hoping to spin off the defender or a predator inside the box waiting to pounce on any chance that comes his way, Diogo is a much more complete player who also offers something else by coming deep to influence play.

The 31-year-old do have the physique to operate as the traditional number 9 but his game intelligence is one that truly stands out. His awareness of where his team mates are, barely a month after training with his new colleagues is something to behold. 

Yet it is the intangible part that looks like making him a great player for JDT. Terengganu FC had taken a very lead through a well worked move that involved Tchetche Kipre and Lee Tuck, which Khairul Izuan made no mistakes with in the 7th minute.

Offered the chance to equalise from the spot in the 30th minute, Diogo thrashed the shot wide of Suffian Rahman's goal much to the dismay of his team mates. But the former Buriram United top scorer never let the miss bothered him and continued to influence play for the visitors. 

Terengganu held onto the lead into half time and held their own after the break. It was a five minutes spell of play that changed the game around 180 degrees as JDT not only clawed their way back into the game but also took the lead.

A second penalty was earned by JDT and this time Safawi Rasid was given the responsibility and the left footer confidently dispatched the spot kick away in the 63rd minute. Just five minutes later, Diogo made up for his earlier penalty error by showing the predatory side of him.

He reacted quickest and smartest to Mauricio's flick on following Aaron Niguez's corner kick to tap home the ball to give JDT an unexpected 1-2 lead at the 68th minute mark. Terengganu's tactic to use the much smaller Lee Tuck to contest Mauricio aerially did not work in their favour on that occasion.

Facing defeat, Irfan Bakti threw on Ashari Samsudin for the more defensive minded Thierry Chanta Bin and was rewarded by the veteran's energetic display in the middle of the park. His movement and passing caused much disarray in JDT's defence and the equaliser finally came just two minutes from the ended, as Kamal Azizi finished off Nasrullah Hanif's pass.

Figueroa had used Syafiq Ahmad as the central attacking midfield role at the start but it wasn't a ploy that worked, with Niguez replacing the former Kedah player early in the second half. That creative position remains one of worry for the reigning league champions but they have at least other positives to hang their hat on from this game.

There's a reason why Buriram fans are still reeling from the loss of Diogo and that is because he is a quality players. JDT may dropped their first points of the season but the 90 minutes provided an indicative cameo as to just why The Southern Tigers will be counting on Diogo to give them the right push when the AFC Champions League comes around.


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