Safiq Rahim scores in extra time as JDT win ACL playoff in Bangkok
BANGKOK -- Johor Darul Ta'zim goalkeeper Farizal Marlias ended his side's Thailand jinx as his two saves in the penalty shootout earned the Malaysian champions victory at Bangkok United in the AFC Champions League (ACL) second preliminary round after the match had ended 1-1 after extra time.
A game of few chances saw a 0-0 stalemate. A blunder from Bangkok United goalkeeper Kittipong Phoothawchuek helped create the opening for JDT skipper Safiq Rahim in the second period of extra time to put the visitors ahead.
Jeronimo Barrales was then red-carded for an off-the-ball incident. But it looked like JDT were heading through before Jaycee John struck in added time of extra time to send the game to a penalty shootout.
Farizial saved from both Dragan Boskovic and Antony Ampaipitawong to give the visitors a 5-4 win on penalties, and book JDT's trip to face Gamba Osaka in the playoff next week. It ended a streak of disappointing ACL playoff results for the 2015 AFC Cup champions, who were eliminated in Thailand in the previous two seasons.
The hosts made the first clear chance after three minutes when Dragan Boskovic found Pokklaw Anan breaking down the left. The Thai international midfielder hit a powerful shot from a narrow angle, but Farizal made a good block.
Minutes later, only an excellent sliding block from Marcos Antonio prevented Mario Gjurovski's through ball from putting Boskovic in the clear.
The JDT defence were being kept on their toes by the Bangkok United midfielders, who were constantly trying pick a killer pass.
But the home side were given a warning when a fine ball from Brian Ferreira appeared to have put Safawi Rasid through on goal, but the referee's assistant had raised his flag for offside.
And the visitors came close to the opening goal after 20 minutes, with Bangkok United again wide open at the back. A surging run from Gonzalo Cabrera drew players to the ball, opening up space for Azammuddin Akil on the right. The midfielder had a clear sight of goal but couldn't keep his shot on target.
There was almost a repeat showing a few minutes later, but this time Ferreira was pulling the strings. Azammuddin opted to play the ball back to Ferreira instead of trying his luck again, but the Argentine couldn't get any power in his low, 20-yard shot and Kittipong Phoothawchuek held comfortably.
After an uncertain opening, JDT were now looking the more dangerous team, with the hosts struggling to build any rhythm and passes frequently going astray.
But United hit back with a fine move. Boskovic and Pokklaw cut open the JDT defence down the right, and moved the ball into the path of Gjurovski before the Macedonian playmaker was crowded out and saw his effort blocked.
Another fine move saw another fine chance for the home side to open the scoring. An excellent exchange of passes between Boskovic and Gjurovski ended with Boskovic in a clear shooting position 12 yards out. But the Montenegrin midfielder's attempt to curl it into the top corner was well read by Farizal, who saved comfortably.
Boskovic's influence was growing, and Fadhli Shas was booked for taking him out off the ball as the hosts broke forward again.
But JDT had an opportunity to take the lead just before half-time. Cabrera tried to wriggle through the home defence and the ball broke to Azammuddin who had found space on the right once again. Again, though, his finishing was poor and his shot drifted wide.
Bangkok United made the first opening of the second period, and the chance fell to a familiar protagonist. A sweeping crossfield ball from Sanrawat Dechmitr found Boskovic in space on the left, and the midfielder took a few paces before firing into the side netting.
JDT hit back immediately and were inches away from the opener. Again, the danger came from the right-hand side and an excellent cross from Azammuddin evaded everyone but Ferreira at the far post. The Argentine got to the ball at full stretch, but couldn't divert it into the net.
With confidence growing, Ferreira then had an audacious attempt from 40 yards after spotting Kittipong off his line, but the shot was too high.
Bangkok United brought their fans to life with an audacious attempt of their own on the hour mark. Macena made a darting run down the left, and his cross found Gjurovski lurking at the edge of the box. The Macedonian executed a spectacular scissors kick, but couldn't keep his effort down.
As the game drifted towards the final quarter, neither side looked like taking complete control of the game, though match fitness would possibly come into play for Bangkok United, in particular.
The hosts had another chance to make the breakthrough after 72 minutes, but Pokklaw stabbed his close-range effort side from Boskovic's cut back.
Sensing the need to finish the game off before extra time, Bangkok United made a attacking substitution by bringing on Jaycee for left wing-back Ernesto Phumipha. But the Nigerian-born Bahrain international's first contribution was to pick up a yellow card for a foul on Cabrera.
With 10 minutes remaining, Boskovic's glancing header went just wide of the post as the stalemate continued. It was the hosts who were looking stronger at this stage, with JDT rarely getting forward.
Extra time started in tame fashion as two tired sides struggled to find the energy for a final push. When players got into promising positions, passes or crosses were overhit or underhit, and no clearcut chances were made in the first 15-minute period.
But a calamatious error from Kittpong allowed JDT to open the scoring at the beginning of the second period. The keeper came out of his box to clear, but was robbed by Azamuddin, who fed the ball to substitute Barrales. The Argentine stood up a cross to the back post where skipper Safiq dived to head into an empty net, with Kittipong stranded.
Barrales then received his marching orders after an off-the-ball cash with Sanrawat, putting the visitors under more pressure as they tried to protect their lead.
There was a predictable flurry of late pressure from the hosts. A close-range header from Jaycee went over the bar and a goalmouth scramble had the defence in a panic, but looked to be holding on comfortably until Jaycee spun in the box, and fired a powerful low drive past a despairing Farizal.
In the shootout, Safiq and Teeratep Winothai netted the first penalties before Antonio blazed JDT's second over the bar. Boskovic then saw his effort pushed wide by Farizal to level matters, and Fadhli took advantage to put JDT back in front. Gjurovski levelled for the Thais but Amirul Zainal kept up the pressure before Macena levelled again.
Ferreira piled the pressure on Jaycee who took United'd fifth spot kick, but the striker netted the put the contest into sudden death. Nazmi Faiz kept the upper hand for JDT and Antony Ampaipitakwong saw his kick saved by Farizal to send the JDT fans wild.
Elsewhere in Thailand, an impressive 5-0 win at home by Sukhothai against Myanmar's Yadanaborn FC sets them up for a glamour tie at Shanghai SIPG next week.
Early strikes by Hiromichi Katano and Lursan Thiamrat had the Thai side cruising and Amir Adrovic added a second-half double before Weerasak Gayasit rounded off the scoring. Next up for the Fire Bats are Oscar, Hulk, Elkeson et al.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK