Johor DT advance as Group winners

Johor Darul Ta’zim will advance to the knock-out stage of the AFC Cup as winners of Group H after beating Ayeyawady United 2-1 at the Ayar Stadium on Wednesday.

The victory is Johor’s fifth successive of the competition and the result leaves them in command of the group on 15 points, well ahead of their opponents on the day, who are on three points with one match remaining before the knock-outs.

Bengaluru and Lao Toyota, who play their Match Day 5 matches later on Wednesday, are on six and three points respectively.

The hosts opened the scoring in the 27th minute when the 22-year-old forward from Thiha Zaw found the back of the net with his shot.

Ayeyawady’s lead lasted for only four minutes though, as Amirul Hadi Zainal leveled matters for the Malaysian outfit in the 31st minute.

With three minutes left in the match, Johor DT then secured all three points when Safee Sali was successful with his shot on goal.

The hosts needed a win to remain with a realistic chance of qualifying for the next phase, and nearly took the lead in the 23rd minute when Aung Kyaw’s shot from range nearly tripped up goalkeeper Izham Tarmiz after bouncing awkwardly before the Johor stopper.

The Fishermen did get the goal they needed three minutes later, following a defensive error by the visitors. Christopher Chizoba’s solo run had the Johor defense in a tangle and after something of a goal-mouth scramble, the ball found its way to Thiha Zaw, who smashed it home from close range.

Thiha nearly made it 2-0 from the kick-off after combining with Chizoba once again, as his attempt had Izham beat but sailed just wide of the mark.

The hosts would be made to pay for their missed opportunity, as JDT equalised moments later. Amirul Hadi exchanged passed with S Chanturu and found the back of the net with a shot into the bottom right corner.

Fifteen minutes after the half-time interval, Junior Eldstal nearly gave JDT the lead when he connected well with his header from a cross from the right flank, but his effort sailed narrowly wide with the goal gaping.

With 15 minutes remaining in the encounter, it was the hosts’ turn to miss a glorious chance in front of goal, as Fadhli Shas nearly found the back of his own net following another goal-mouth melee, but this time Izham kept his wits about them and cleared the ball off his line.

Only a few minutes from the end, the defending champions secured their 100 percent record in this year’s competition following a gaffe from Ayeyawady keeper Vanlal Hruala. Amri Yahyah’s freekick from the right flank found Fadhlu unmarked. His header ricocheted off the opposite post and completely fooled Hruala, after which Safee stabbed home his effort from close range.