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Newly crowned AFC Cup champions JDT now focus on Malaysia Cup

JDT's AFC Cup victory vindicates the huge financial support provided by the Crown Prince of Johor. Photo credit: Johor Southern Tigers

Newly crowned AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will have little time to rest as they chase an historic treble of trophies.

Mario Gomez's side return to Malaysia Cup action on Thursday night when they travel to Ipoh to face Perak in their penultimate Group B match.

But because the Malaysia Super League champions are already through to the Malaysia Cup quarterfinals, Gomez will have the luxury of rotating his squad after the tiring trip back Tajikistan.

JDT defeated FC Istiklol 1-0 in Dushanbe on Saturday night to become the first Southeast Asian side to lift a major regional trophy.

"I am happy with my players," Gomez told the AFC's official website. "We created history for Malaysian football in the AFC Cup. We worked a lot and claimed the trophy."

Leandro Velazquez's first half goal proved the difference for the Southern Tigers who rode their luck against a dominant Istiklol side. The Tajikistan champions had the ball in the back of the net on the three occasions only to have them all chalked off by Japanese referee Tojo Minoru.

"Our goalkeeper and our defenders played well when Istiklol created pressure," said the Argentinian coach. "I think the players followed their instructions well and I'm proud that we have this victory."

Gomez's men went one better than compatriots Selangor -- who lost in the final of the 1967 Asian Club Championship -- to claim a major Asian trophy. The victory vindicates the huge financial support given by Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, the Crown Prince of Johor, otherwise known as TMJ.

JDT captain Safiq Rahim was named the MVP with the Malaysia international producing the corner from which Argentine import Velazquez scored with his well-controlled strike.

"I am happy with our victory," Safiq said. "We made great work together with teammates and coaching staff. It's great for me that I've been chosen MVP for the tournament. But the most important thing is the team and the trophy."

Selangor qualified for the inaugural Asian Club Championship final 48 years ago before losing 1-0 to Israel's Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The Johorian outfit are favourites to win the Malaysia Cup, but will face strong opposition from two-time defending champions Pahang and Singapore's LionsXII, winners of the 2015 FA Cup.

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