ISKANDAR PUTERI: A much-changed Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) struggled to live up to their sparkling performance in the earlier matches of the Asian Champions League (ACL) as they were thrashed 5-0 by Kawasaki Frontale at Sultan Ibrahim Stadium here on Sunday.
The defeat puts JDT’s qualification to the next stage in jeopardy as they lost the top spot in Group I, now one point behind the reigning J1 League champions heading into the final two matches.
Both teams adopted the same approach with Benjamin Mora making five changes from the team that held Kawasaki to a scoreless draw on Thursday, while Toru Oniki swapped out six players and showed that perhaps the Japanese side had the better squad.
Bergson da Silva, Shahrul Saad and Natxo Insa were huge misses in the JDT side as the intensity and pressing witnessed in the first three games evaporated despite the best efforts of Nathaniel Shio and Afiq Fazail in midfield.
It took the visitors 14 minutes to break the deadlock when Yasuto Wakizaka put away a stunning freekick with Yu Kobayashi scoring the second in the 31st minute.
In the 43rd minute, Kobayashi put away an easy tap-in to get his brace of goals in the game.
Mora made two changes in the second half by bringing on Nazmi Faiz Mansor and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri for the ineffective Afiq and Fernando Forestieri, which brought about an injection of intensity but even then it was a short-lived one.
JDT found opportunities through set-pieces but neither La’Vere Corbin-Ong nor Shane Lowry could beat Jung Sung Ryong in the Kawasaki’s goal.
Kawasaki easily wrest back control of the match with Kento Tachibanada making full use of the opportunity to boss the centre of midfield without the threat of Insa on the opposing team.
The Japanese side not only easily kept JDT at arm’s length for the remainder of the match but also added to their superiority when Chanathip Songkrasin showed his quality with a driving run in the 81st minute to assist substitute Marcio Barbosa to his team’s fourth on the night.
The incredible Chanathip would cap off an amazing night of success for his club by slamming home the fifth goal of the match to send Frontale to the top of Group I.