# Southern Tigers look good to make the AFC Cup semi-finals
# JDT will be tough nuts for South China in return-leg quarter-final
By Rizal Abdullah
That deadly left footed equaliser by Serbian Nikola Komazec deep into six minutes of added time gave Hong Kong’s South China an encouraging 1-1 against defending champions Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) in the AFC Cup first-leg quarter-final at the Mongkok Stadium last week.
It threw South China a lifeline but a it may not be enough for the Hong Kong outfit when the return-leg is played at Johor Bahru’s Larkin Stadium on Tuesday. “This is Larkin” is JDT’s homeground.
The Southern Tigers need only a 0-0 draw to advance to the semi-finals against India’s Bengaluru FC or Singapore’s Tampines Rovers – riding on an away goal from the first-leg.
Bengaluru won the first-leg at home 1-0 and the match was played in an empty stadium due to crowd violence which erupted in the Indian city two days earlier.
However, JDT’s Argentine coach Mario Gomez wants more than just a scoreless draw in Larkin. Upset with the defensive lapse that cost JDT a win in the first-leg Gomez wants his team to regain the “winning mentality” to get past South China – which also happens to be his former team.
For the record both teams met at the same stage last year with South China holding JDT to a 1-1 draw at Larkin in the first-leg before the Southern Tigers whipped their Hong Kong opponents 3-1 in the return-leg at Mongkok Stadium for a 4-2 aggregate and a place in the semi-finals.
South China coach Ricardo Rambo, aware that his team cannot settle for a 0-0 draw if it harbours hopes of knocking out the champions for a place in the last four, said:
“We must find a way to score…a 0-0 draw is not good enough.”
The Brazilian is also aware that JDT will be hard to beat at Larkin as the Southern Tigers have not lost a match at home in all competitions so far this year.
JDT may have been knocked out of the Malaysia Cup competition but the Johor team have been the most consistent side in Malaysian football and created history by becoming the first team to win the Super League title for three years running since 2014. The Southern Tigers also won the FA Cup this year apart from the Charity Shield.
In Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero the AFC Cup champions have two Argentines who can swing the match JDT’s way in front of the their vociferous home fans.