Humbled after rough ride

Lethal strike: Kawasaki Frontale’s Leandro Damiao (left) scoring their second goal against Johor Darul Ta’zim during the AFC Champions League Group I match at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium in Kawasaki. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) went to Japan with a mission but their coach Esteban Solari conceded that they could hardly execute their game against Kawasaki Frontale in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.

The Malaysian powerhouse were helpless as Kawasaki turned on the power after the interval to chalk up a thumping 5-0 win.

JDT had put up a tough resistance in their first Group I match against Kawasaki in Iskandar Puteri on Sept 19 where they lost 0-1 but were not able to lift their performance in the crucial return clash. The defeat thus ended JDT’s run in the competition while Kawasaki, who kept their perfect record by winning all their five group matches, are through to the second stage with 15 points.

“It was a difficult night for us. We didn’t play the game we wanted to play and that means we are out of the competition even though we have one more match to play,” said Solari.

“We had the confidence going into the game but we were never in the game. The performance wasn’t what we were waiting for and we just lost it.”

Veteran playmaker Akihiro Ienaga made the first breakthrough by scoring in the eighth minute for Kawasaki but JDT managed to keep their more superior opponents at bay after that.

Kawasaki took full control of the match through two headed goals from Leandro Damiao in the 50th minute and Marcinho in the 60th minute.

Yu Kobayashi (69th) and Miki Yamane’s (88th) struck later to wrap up a match that would remain as the low point of JDT’s 2023 season.

Kawasaki coach Toru Oniki was satisfied with the result and also praised Ienaga’s efforts in front of the goal as Damaio’s second goal came through a cross from the 37-year-old winger.

“We are happy to score five goals but the most important thing is to clear the group stage. Ienaga not only scored but he was creating a lot of chances for us,” said Oniki.

“We hope Ienaga can keep improving and play an important role for us in the coming matches.”

JDT will be aiming for consolation by winning their final group match against BG Pathum United in Iskandar Puteri on Dec 12.

Kawasaki will host South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai on the same day where they would want to continue their winning streak.

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