Lucero, Diaz strikes put JDT into AFC Cup semis

A dominant second-half performance from the reigning AFC Cup champions saw them defeat a spirited South China and qualify for the semi-finals.

  • JDT 2 South China 1 (3-2 agg)
  • Chances for both sides during an exciting first half
  • Johor strike the bar in each half with long-range shots
  • Safiq sees 49th-minute penalty saved by South China keeper
  • Lucero opens the scoring on 57 minutes
  • Diaz seals victory with far post header two minutes from time
  • Komazec pulls one back after mistake from Marcus Antonio

Match summary

South China soak up pressure and hit JDT with a number of fast breaks through Mahama Awal.

Azamuddin hits the bar with a long-range effort and South China keeper saves well from Hariss Harun as Johor spurn several good chances in action-packed first half.

Argentine duo Juan Martin Lucero and Pereyra Diaz strike in second half, before Nikola Komazec’s late strike sees Johor squeeze through 3-2 on aggregate.

Full report

The game kicked off in a strangely subdued atmosphere at the Larkin with South China pressuring the home side high up the pitch in an attempt to stop Johor dominating.

It was the visitors who had the first chance in the eighth minute when Mahama Awal was released down the right and crossed just too far in front of the onrushing Nikola Komazec.

Then in the 12th minute Juan Martin Lucero was fouled by Wisdom Agbo on edge of the box.

The free kick wasn’t cleared and the ball fell to Hariss Harun at the far post. His fierce shot on the turn was superbly pushed away by keeper Tsang Man Fai.

From the resulting corner JDT were denied what looked a clear-cut penalty when Pereyra Diaz was brought down as he ran onto the ball.

Awal broke again in the 19th minute following a spell of intense Johor pressure to set up Komazec on the edge of the box for a shot that Izham Tarmizi managed to parry to safety.

Diaz then wasted the best chance of the match in the 26th minute after a one-two with Lucero put him clear inside the box only for the chance to go begging after his first touch let him down.

Chan Siu Kwan spurned a great chance just before the half-hour mark when he stole the ball from Aidil Radzak only to cross the ball straight to Tarmizi with Komazec waiting in front of the open goal.

Azamuddin Akil came closest to an opener when he struck the bar in the 32nd minute with a long range effort with the keeper well beaten.

JDT skipper Safiq Rahim then received a yellow card for dangerous play eight minutes before the break when he was booked for a nasty looking challenge on the South China keeper.

The last 10 minutes of the half turned scrappy and Safiq was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch during stoppage time with a high elbow on Law Hiu Chung that left the Hong Kong player needing treatment.

With just one defeat in their last 67 matches at home, Johor continued to press in the second half.

And they had a golden opportunity just four minutes in when Diaz ran onto a through ball and was brought down by the keeper, but Safiq saw his well-struck spot kick beaten away by Tsang Man Fai as the keeper dived to his right.

Lucero scored the opener for JDT on 57 minutes with his sixth goal of this season’s AFC Cup. The Argentine calmly slotting in Azamuddin’s pull back from just inside the box after the full back’s initial cross has been blocked.

The goal spurred the home side on, and they struck the crossbar for the second time in the 64th minute when Azniee Taib hit a superb swerving effort that the keeper just got a touch on.

South China brought on Ryan Griffiths for Chan Siu Kwan on 70 minutes as they searched for the equaliser.

JDT then missed a chance to put the tie beyond South China just a minute later as Azniee Taib hit the bar for a second time when it looked easier to score after more great work from Diaz found him with an open goal just three yards out.

The visitors then started to come more into the game as they searched for the goal that would send the tie into extra time.

But Diaz grabbed what proved to be the decisive goal on 88 minutes, heading in a Safiq corner at the far post after catching the South China defence napping.

Komacez pulled one back for South China with a goal in the fourth minute of injury time, pouncing on a weak Marcus Antonio header to poke home. But it proved to be too little, too late