Persija 4 JDT 0: Abysmal JDT at the risk of early AFC Cup exit

16:32 EAT 10/04/2018
Darren Lok, Johor Darul Ta'zim
Johor Darul Ta'zim is on the verge of an early exit from the AFC Cup as a 4-0 defeat to Persija Jakarta see a gap opening up between them and top spot

After all the talk about how this game was one that JDT needed to win to keep them AFC Cup ambition alive, the starting line-up that was selected told a completely different story.

Raul Longhi and Aidil Zafuan were talking the pre-match press conference yesterday about how JDT are ready to win at the hostile Gelora Bung Karno Stadium but the exact opposite happened.

Safiq Rahim, Ignacio 'Natxo' Insa, Fadhli Shas and Safawi Rasid were all left on the bench as an unfamilliar JDT team trotted out for the opening whistle.

Longhi went for a back three, a formation not used at all this entire season, in arguably the most difficult away match they have played thus far. Aidil Zafuan, Hariss Harun and Junior Eldstal played like strangers and Persija stormed to a quick 3-0 lead int he first half.

Former Negeri Sembilan and Melaka United striker, Marco Simic got the ball rolling with a header in the 8th minute after Riko Simanjuntak found space behind a poor Fazly Mazlan. It would take the burly Simic just another four more minutes to score his second, connecting well with another header, this time from Muhammad Rezaldi's free kick.

Before 20 minutes was up on the clock, it was once again Simic who struck for Persija as they take a very handsome first half lead. Fazly was again caught napping and Rizki Ramdani's clever little pass found the on-rushing Simic for a simple tap-in to complete his hattrick.

A shell-shocked JDT came out in the second half reverting to their usual back four defence as Hariss moved into midfield and Azrif Nasrulhaq replaced the disappointing Fazly. That more familiar shape enabled the away side to keep a much better shape and suddenly Persija found the route towards goal harder to come by.

The Southern Tigers were starting to get more of the ball possession but the likes of Darren Lok and Syafiq Ahmad struggled to break a resolute Persija defence. A much improved second half performance was negated when Adam Nor Azlin saw red for his second bookable offence and the youngster ended a torrid night where he was asked to played a right wing back and then right back, on a sour note.

There was to be more heartache for JDT when Azrif brought down Riko inside the penalty box and Simic step up to score his fourth of the night and seal a wonderful 4-0 win over JDT.

Right from the start, JDT never gave themselves a chance in the match and the fact that Hariss was the only player in the starting XI that played against Pahang last weekend, showed just where the priorities are with the 2015 AFC Cup champions.

With Song Lam Nghe An winning the other match against Tampines Rovers, both Song Lam and Tampines are now on 10 points while JDT are stuck on seven points. There's only one more round of matches to go and JDT will need to get a big result against Song Lam at home, if they are to join the other teams int he knockout stage.