Southeast Asia Malaysia

History-Making JDT Edge Out Ulsan Again to Book Last 16 Ticket

History was made on Saturday night as Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta’zim booked themselves a spot in the AFC Champions League round of 16 thanks to a 2-1 win over South Korean titans Ulsan Hyundai. The three points ensured that JDT would finish top of Group I above more illustrious opposition in Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale and Ulsan. Making things sweeter for the Southern Tigers, group runners-up Kawasaki’s record wasn’t enough to seal them a spot in the last 16, ensuring JDT as the sole Group I representative in the knockouts.

Having lost 5-0 to Kawasaki in their Matchday 4 game, JDT managed to make amends for said performance with a 2-0 win over last-placed Guangzhou FC of China, setting up a winner-takes-all tie at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium between themselves and two-time ACL champions Ulsan.

Benjamin Mora’s Southern Tigers went off to a flyer in the 5th minute after Leandro Velazquez’s superb free-kick found its way into Jo Hyeon-woo’s net.

However, JDT’s sizeable home support was almost immediately silenced after Jun Amano drew things level for Ulsan, the Japanese midfielder snapping up a pass from Yun Il-lok before slotting home past JDT goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.

Being pegged back by their Korean opponents did not deter JDT one bit and the hosts continued their relentless assault on the Ulsan defense. Former Sheffield Wednesday attacker Fernando Forestieri thought that he had regained JDT’s lead in the 24th minute, however, the Italian’s effort was ruled out for offside.

Both teams exchanged blows afterward, however in the end it was JDT who managed to find a gap in Ulsan’s defensive chainlink. With time ticking away and the clock displaying the fourth minute of injury time, Arif Aiman swung a cross into the Ulsan defense, which was inadvertently turned towards Hyeon-woo’s goal by Park Yong-woo, sending the JDT supporters into utter raptures.

By finishing top of Group I, JDT became the first-ever Malaysian team to advance into the ACL knockouts since the competition’s inception in 2002, as well as being the first Southeast Asian team to reach such stage from outside of Thailand. Whilst JDT’s home ground advantage might gave doubters some fuel to dispute the Southern Tigers’ achievements, the fact that they’ve managed to finish above group favorites Kawasaki and Ulsan meant that JDT has grown from strength to strength and managed to go toe-to-toe with the Asian elite.

It’s that champion mentality,” said a line from JDT’s theme song Pioneers, performed by a dynamic duo of Joe Flizzow and Snoop Dogg, and it’s that mentality as well that saw JDT overcome Ulsan twice, both after their storied opponents had managed to peg the Southern Tigers back.