* JDT put up a sterling performance in 4-1 win over India’s East Bengal FC in Group F

* Safee Sali scores a stunning goal

* Kitchee FC (Hong Kong) beat Balestier Khalsa (Singapore) 3-0

His well executed overhead kick which sailed into the roof of the net carried a strong message from national striker Safee Sali that he still has the killer instinct in scoring goals as Johor Darul Takzim hammered India’s East Bengal FC 4-1 to get their AFC Cup campaign in Group F to a roaring start on Tuesday.

Safee showed his class with JDT’s fourth and last goal of the night at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru on a night when the foreign players Luciaono Figueroa, Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Marcos Antonio were left out of the starting lineup by coach Bojan Hodak. The only foreigner who took the field was Singapore’s Hariss Harun.

And the local’s stole the limelight against the Indian side that paraded their foreign aces Ranty Martin Soleye and Dudu (Nigeria) and Milan Susak (Australia). But it was a dreadful start for the Indian outfits new Dutch coach Eelcon Schattorie who took over the hot seat only on Feb 17.

“We lacked match fitness and when you are short on this you can’t win matches, said Schattorie, who praised JDT for their splendid win.

Hodak was more than pleased with the performance of his young players who replaced some of the seniors – knowing that he can count on the depth on his bench.

“It is a good exposure for the younger players and they showed that they can deliver in an international match. It is a good win for a winning start to the AFC Cup,” said the Croatian who was forced to reshuffle his side due to the tight schedule in the M-League apart from the injuries that has taken its toll on the team.

JDT’s next stop is the FA Cup second match against Pahang, the defending champions at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan on Sunday

The big scoreline against Bengal FC certainly came as a surprise after the Southern Tigers struggled to a 1-1 draw against Selangor and fell to a 1-0 defeat to Police in the Super League.

Nazrin Nawi opened scoring for JDT after nine minutes of play with a delightful curling left footer from a freekick from outside the box after S. Chanturu was felled. The homesters had another close look at the East Bengal FC goal but Fadli Shas’ glancing header off a freekick by Safig Rahim went screaming past the left post in the 30th minute.

Five minutes the visitors earned a freekick and it proved disastrous for JDT. Martin made it 1-1 for East Bengal FC from a freekick on the top of the box – with the ball rolling into the JDT net after taking a deflection off the wall.

However, JDT regained their one goal cushion on 38 minutes and it came via a penalty. Skipper Safiq Rahim converted from the spot for a 2-1 lead at half-time.

Two minutes into the second-half JDT put themselves into the driving seat. Safiq dummied a long ball and Jasazrin Jamaluddin came from the blind side to beat the offside trap. Jasazrin raced through into the box before releasing the ball to Chanturu for the finishing touches. JDT 3-1.

Then came Safee’s gem of a goal for a roaring start to JDT’s AFC Cup campaign.

“My teammates made it possible for me to score. More importantly it has given me the confidence that I can still contribute if given the chance to play. Hopefully this goal will get me more playing opportunities,” said a smiling Safee after the match. The goal was his first this season.

The other teams in the group are Singapore Balestier Khalsa and Hong Kong’s Kitchee FC. Kitchee also got off to a winning start with a convincing 3-0 win over Balestier 3-0 at the Mong Kok Stadium with goals by Xu Deshuai (21st minutes), Lok Fung Ngan (68th) and Spain’s Jordi Tarres (90th).  

PICTURES by www.asiana.my



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