PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) are saving their best for this Sunday’s mouth-watering FA Cup clash against Pahang for a place in semi-finals.
For this reason, the Southern Tigers fielded an under-strength side in the penultimate AFC Cup Group F match against Cambodia’s Beoungket Angkor at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.
And JDT head coach Benjamin Mora’s game plan was spot on as they won 3-0.
Safawi Rashid opened account in the eighth minute before Mohd Nazmi Faiz Mansor increased the tally in the 26th minute. Substitute Gabriel Guerra added the third in the 90th minute.
Mexican Mora fielded an all-local line-up filled mostly with reserves. He gave debuts to 19-year-old goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli and defender Dominic Tan Jun Jin and only introduced Argentine striker Guerra towards the end of the game.
In the end, the team passed with flying colours and are back on track for the South-East Asian (Asean) zonal semi-finals.
JDT, the 2015 champions, remain second in the group on 10 points. Global of the Philippines consolidated their top spot on 12 points after a 4-2 win over Myanmar’s Magwe in Yangon.
Only the top team win an automatic slot to the semi-finals together with the best runners-up team in the three Asean groups.
JDT will wrap up their group fixtures on May 3 when they take on Myanmar’s Magwe at the Larkin Stadium while Global will face Beoungket.
JDT assistant coach Ismail Ibrahim commended the fringe players for rising to the occasion against Beoungket.
“We even rested captain (Safiq Rahim) because of the important game (against Pahang). We needed the three points to close the gap on Global and we achieved our target.
“We gave opportunities to the reserves and young players. We hope this experience will make them better players,” said Ismail.
On Sunday, defending champions JDT have a Herculean task. They need to overturn a two-goal deficit after Pahang triumphed 3-1 in the first leg of the quarter-finals at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan on April 1.