JDT's AFC Champions League dream kept alive after extra-time
Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) and 2014 S.League winners Warriors FC can now prepare for next week's second round playoffs in the AFC Champions League after negotiating tough ties in the first round.
JDT beat India's Bengaluru FC at home while Warriors FC accounted for Yadanarbon FC away on Wednesday night to keep alive their hopes of making the group stages of Asia's elite club competition.
Warriors FC have qualified for the AFC Champions League group stages on two occasions -- in 2009 and 2010. Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions JDT have never participated in the tournament so they will be keen for a slice of history by becoming the first side from their nation to qualify.
Bojan Hodak's men will now travel to face Thai Premier League side Bangkok Glass on Feb. 10 in the second round of qualifying. They will have a tantalising away match against 13-time Chinese Super League (CSL) champions Beijing Guoan on Feb. 17 should they manage to defeat the Thai outfit.
JDT were made to sweat at Larkin Stadium against a defensively sound Bengaluru until new recruit S. Chanturu scored seven minutes into extra-time to give the hosts a 2-1 victory. The match had ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Despite dominating most of the game, the Southern Tigers had to wait till the second half before finding a breakthrough. Singapore international midfielder Hariss Harun smashed the ball home in the 47th minute to give the home team a deserved 1-0 lead.
Captain Safiq Rahim and Jorge Pereyra Diaz had chances to increase the advantage. They were left to rue their profligacy in front of goal when Bengaluru won a corner kick in the 90th minute which Eugeneson Lyngdoh directed straight past a hapless Farizal Marlias in goal.
Sensing an upset on their hands, Bengaluru went into extra time looking dangerous on the counter attack. But they were undone by Chanturu's barnstorming run into the box where he slotted past Lalthuanmawia Ralte to send the partisan crowd into rapturous celebrations.
Warriors FC struggled to find their rhythm against Yadanarbon FC but did enough to squeeze through to the next round courtesy of a 6-5 penalty shootout victory at the Mandalar Thiri Stadium in Myanmar. They will now face Cosmin Contra's Guangzhou R&F next Tuesday in China.
Alex Weaver's team, who were playing their first competitive match of the season, had goalkeeper Neezam Aziz to thank. The stopper almost singlehandedly kept his side in the game, with a string of stunning saves, as the home side went on the offensive from the get go.
With the match ending goalless in normal time, both teams came alive in extra-time. The visitors took the lead in the 98th minute through substitute Andy Ahmad before defensive rock Ye Win Aung leveled the game at one apiece.
Neither side managed to score again and the tie went into a penalty shootout. With the first five penalty takers from both sides converting their chances, it was all square at 5-5 until Ahmad made it 6-5 to the Warriors. Then Si Thu Aung missed the subsequent spot kick to send the Singapore club through to the next round.
A daunting task awaits Weaver and his side should they get past Guangzhou. A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners await in the final round, with the winners earning a place in the group stages for the 2015 AFC Champions League.