Ahmad Hazwan Bakri’s deflected second-half goal gave Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) a 3-2 win over Ceres-Negros in a pulsating AFC Cup semifinal at Larkin Stadium on Wednesday night.
The thrilling encounter saw the hosts strike early before Ceres-Negros replied twice in stunning fashion to leave the home fans stunned.
Gonzalo Cabrera opened the score for the former AFC Cup champions with a composed strike in the 18th minute.
However, the hosts’ lead was short-lived, as attacking plays from the Philippine outfit saw goals from striker Fernando Rodriguez and Bienvenido Maranon in the space of seven minutes, putting Ceres in the lead.
Safiq Rahim rose to the occasion as he found the back of the net with an accurate header while unmarked in the box to equalise for JDT.
Johor’s Ahmad Hazwan sealed the fate of the match in the 68th minute. The midfielder was in the right place at the right time when a powerful strike was deflected in his direction, leaving him an easy finish from close range.
JDT will have a slight advantage ahead of the second leg of the ASEAN zone encounter in the Philippines on 31 May.