Asia AFC Champions League

Frontale Hands JDT First Defeat of 2023

Kawasaki Frontale have handed Johor Darul Ta’zim their first defeat of the 2023 season after the Japanese outfit edged out their Malaysian opponents 1-0 in Tuesday’s AFC Champions League action at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.

Hosts JDT has, up to Tuesday, experienced a near-perfect 2023 season. The Southern Tigers had won all but one of their domestic matches so far in the Liga Super Malaysia, the Malaysia FA Cup, and the Malaysia Cup, successfully defending the Malaysia FA Cup in the process. Kedah Darul Aman were the only side to have denied JDT a win this season and even then the Canaries could only muster a 3-3 draw with the runaway league leaders in a Liga Super match on August 26th.

Kawasaki, on the other hand, were experiencing an indifferent season. Despite performing well in the Emperor’s Cup – being one of the four semifinalists for this season – Toru Oniki’s men are currently 9th in the 2023 J.League 1 table and had been knocked out of this season’s J.League Cup in the group stages.

Despite this difference in form, it was Kawasaki, seemingly ignorant of their domestic inconsistencies, who started Tuesday’s match brightly, with Akihiro Ienaga threatening Syihan Hazmi’s goal with a powerful shot that struck the bar in the 14th minute.

But JDT were undeterred by this and both Heberty and Bergson elicited reactions from the Sultan Ibrahim faithful seven minutes later with successive chances that missed their target.

Marcinho caused a moment of concern for the hosts when he had an opportunity to advance towards goalkeeper Syihan. However, the Brazilian’s shot glanced off the goalkeeper’s head, sending the ball into the air. JDT captain Jordi Amat then cleared it off the goal line.

On the other side, Bergson, as always, posed the most significant threat for JDT. Kawasaki goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong managed to save the forward’s shot from the edge of the area. The Brazilian attempted another shot, this time with a header, but Takuma Ominami safely diverted it away.

The first half seemed destined to end without any goals. However, with half-time only seconds away, Marcinho made his mark and silenced the Sultan Ibrahim.

Ienaga lofted a cross from the right, which Tatsuki Seko sent high into the air. With Syihan having gone out of his position and with the JDT goal prone to attack, Marcinho executed a spectacular goal that gave Kawasaki the advantage.

Marcinho had an opportunity to increase the lead shortly after the second half began. He combined with Ienaga to direct a volley across the goalmouth using his instep. Meanwhile, Arif Aiman kept Kawasaki on edge as he forced Jung to take action.

Nevertheless, it was the Japanese team that appeared more likely to score. In the 61st minute, Shane Lowry had to clear the ball off his own goal line when Seko came close to putting it in.

Four minutes later, Marcinho missed the target, heading wide after a cross from Yasuto Wakizaka on the right found him unmarked at the far post. JDT’s Juan Muniz had a late chance at goal with a free kick that sailed high over the bar, allowing Kawasaki to successfully run down the clock and gave the Southern Tigers their first-ever defeat of the season.