A stoppage-time equaliser from South China denied Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim an away win on Tuesday in their AFC Cup quarter-final first leg in Hong Kong.
Argentine striker Pereyra Diaz netted midway through the first half for JDT with a low shot from inside the area, before Nikola Komazec’s late strike earned South China a 1-1 draw.
The Serb striker capitalised on some poor defending from JDT, turning in the box before striking the ball into the top corner after they had failed to clear their lines.
After an uneventful first few minutes, a period of sustained pressure saw JDT take the lead in the 22nd minute. A Shafiq free kick from the right wasn’t cleared and it was knocked back into the box by Azamuddin Akil.
The ball fell to Pereyra Diaz, who turned smartly and got a shot off from a narrow angle that goalkeeper Hing Kit really should have saved.
The goal sparked a previously subdued South China into life.
The Hong Kong side had a first sniff at goal in the 26th minute following their first corner of the match with a header at the far post which was directed into the side netting.
Then, in the 28th minute the ball was played low into the JDT box from a free kick but Mahama Amal stroked the wall wide.
JDT continued to dominate the rest of the first period, with Diaz and Lucero causing occasional problems but neither side creating too many clear cut chances.
South China came out after the break looking much livelier, and peppered the JDT goal with several long-range shots.
In a rare Johor attack, Hariss looked to add to JDT’s lead in the 55th minute with a long range shot, but it was always rising.
South China continued to press, containing JDT in their own half, but a lack of quality in the final third meant that the pressure failed to result in any clear cut chances.
The game began to turn niggly, with the Southern Tigers earning a series of yellow cards, Lucero becoming the fourth JDT player to go into the book for an ugly high-footed challenge.
Cameroonian Amal almost pulled South China level in the 66th minute capitalising on a poor clearance, making space before hitting a fierce shot from the edge of the box that was pushed away by Izham Tarmizi.
Things turned ugly in the 78th minute with an off-the-ball incident that left three South China players on the floor following a mass brawl. Diaz and Leung Kwun Cheung were booked as a result although what exactly happened was unclear.
Lucero had a chance to make things comfortable in the 90th minute but shot straight at the keeper when well placed, before Komazec’s late intervention.