Southern Tigers must stay focused against Ceres

  • Football
  • Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Hard at work: Johor Darul Ta’zim players during a training session at the Larkin Stadium on the eve of their AFC Cup semi-final, first leg against Ceres tonight. — ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG / The Star

JOHOR BARU: It looks like Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) may have to reshuffle their backline when they take on Ceres of the Philippines in the AFC Cup Asean Zone semi-final, first leg at the Larkin Stadium tonight.

But the injuries to regular defenders Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak and Mohd Fadhli Shas are not what’s bothering Southern Tigers manager Ismail Ibrahim (pic).

He’s more worried about getting his players to stay focused until the final whistle.

“We have good back-up players like Dominic Tan and Hasbullah Abu Bakar ... even midfielder Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal can play in defence. These players can form a good partnership with Marcos Antonio.

“Our only issue is the lack of concentration among the boys ... that has cost us in a few of our matches. We have worked hard in training to fix this problem, so I believe we will be better in this aspect against Ceres,” he said at a pre-match press conference here yesterday.

Three-time Super League champions JDT, who have set themselves a target of reaching the AFC Cup final, made it to the knockout stage as the best-placed runners-up in the Asean Zone while Ceres advanced as Group G champions.

“It will be a difficult game because Ceres have good players and they proved their mettle in the group stage,” said Ismail.

“Our target is simple ... get a big win at home so that we will have the advantage for the return leg.”

JDT skipper Antonio has picked youngster Dominic to make an impact in the game if fielded.

“(Dominic) Tan has shown good character and quality as a defender despite his young age. He has been working very hard in training because he wants to play in this match . He has learned a lot and I think he will prove that he’s the future of JDT,” said the Brazilian.

Ceres head coach Risto Vidakovic, meanwhile, has reminded his players to focus on the JDT team instead of individual players.

“They (JDT) have a lot of talented players and are known for their offensive game ... I’m sure they will not change their tactics against us at home,” said the 48-year-old Serbian coach.

“My players are ready to face JDT, who are the best club in the region. Our target is to get a favourable result to take home for the return leg.”

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