PETALING JAYA: Former champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) are left with a mountain to climb in the AFC Cup after they were outclassed 4-0 by the Marko Simic-inspired Persija Jakarta.
The Croatian hotshot Simic took just 19 minutes to bag his hattrick before adding a fourth in the 86th minute to send the roaring 70,000 fans at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta into a frenzy yesterday.
Simic opened the scoring just seven minutes into the match when he headed home a neat cross from Riko Simanjuntak before doubling the lead five minutes later through yet another header following a free-kick from Rezaldi Hehanusa.
JDT’s three-man defence comprising Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak, Junior Eldstal and Harriss Harun was a letdown once more as they allowed Simic to complete his treble with an easy tap-in following a cross from Ramdani Lestaluhu.
Simic surely lived up to his nickname ‘Super Simic’, scoring his fourth from the spot in the 86th minute.
The defeat leaves JDT in third place of the Group H with seven points – three behind Persija and Song Lam Nghe An, who defeated Singapore’s Tampines Rover 2-1 in the other match of the day.
Persija pipped Song Lam to the first place due to their head-to-head advantage.
Only the group winners are assured of qualifying for the Asean zonal semi-final.
JDT, however, are still in with a mathematical chance to advance as the best second-placed team, just like they did last year.