Johor Darul Ta’zim’s dream of reaching the AFC Champions League 2019 Round of 16 are hanging by a thread after they fell to a narrow 1-0 loss to Shandong Luneng on Wednesday.
Once again, they produced a battling display to match their more-illustrious opponents at the Larkin Stadium but just lacked that extra bit of quality to get something more out of the contest.
The only goal of the game arrived in the 22nd minute when a searching cross from the left by Jin Jingdao found Song Wenjie, who initially completely messed up his header and sent it looping straight into the air.
AFC Champions League 2019: Johor Darul Ta’zim 0-1 Shandong Luneng (Graziano Pelle 22′)
However, the loose ball fell kindly to Graziano Pelle, who lashed the ball home from close to take his tally for the campaign to five goals in four matches.
Despite the defeat, there were some positives for JDT including captain Hariss Harun was once shining in the engine room, while Aidil Zafuan battled manfully all evening long coming up against a quality opponent in Pelle.
Firmly rooted to the bottom of Group E, Harimau Selatan must now win both their final matches against Kashima Antlers and Gyeongnam FC to stand any chance of reaching the knockout round in their tournament debut.
JOHOR DARUL TA’ZIM: Izham Tarmizi, Azrif Nashrulhaq, Aidil Zafuan, Fadhli Shas, La’Vere Corbin-Ong, Hariss Harun, Syamer Kutty Abba, Nazmi Faiz, Akhyar Rashid (Safawi Rasid 64’), Syafiq Ahmad (Ahmad Hazwan Bakri 71’), Diogo (Gonzalo Cabrera 57’).
SHANDONG LUNENG: Han Rongze, Wang Tong, Gil, Liu Yang, Song Long, Hao Junmin, Marouane Fellaini, Zhang Chi (Zhou Haibin 82’), Song Wenjie (Wu Xinghan 60’), Jin Jingdao (Zheng Zheng 88′), Graziano Pelle.