Kawin Thamsatchanan was the hero for Muangthong United as they beat Johor Darul Ta’zim 3-0 on penalties following a 0-0 draw to set up an AFC Champions League qualifying playoff against Shanghai SIPG.
The Thailand international produced the goods when it mattered in Tuesday’s Preliminary Stage 2 encounter at the SCG Stadium, making three consecutive saves in the shootout to effectively win it for his side, but it could have been a far more straightforward evening’s work for them.
Despite dominating large periods of the game, the Thai Premier League outfit failed to capitalise as Brazilian strikers Cleiton Silva and Junior Negrao missed a host of excellent clear-cut opportunities.
Instead, it looked as though the Malaysian visitors might make their opponents pay for their profligacy, with Safiq Rahim and Mahali Jasuli both coming close towards the end of the first half.
When Muangthong did manage to hit the target, they found it impossible to beat Farizal Marlias as the JDT custodian was in excellent form to deny Thitiphan Puangchan, Negrao and Cleiton.
And after neither side could find the breakthrough in the 90 minutes, as well as 30 more minutes of extra-time, it went down to the dreaded penalty shootout where it was Kawin who stole the show.
The 26-year-old came up with a trio of outstanding stops to keep out efforts from Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Marcos Antonio and Hariss Harun, while Cleiton, Peerapat Notchaiya and Sarach Yooyen all succeeded in converting from the spot to seal the Twin Qilins’ progress to the next stage.
Muangthong will now take on Shanghai SIPG, who finished second in the Chinese Super League last year, at the Shanghai Stadium next Tuesday desperate to avoid a repeat of 2014, when they failed to qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage at the final hurdle after losing 2-1 to Melbourne Victory in the playoffs.