Johor Darul Ta'zim's hopes of a Round-of-16 berth in the 2021 AFC Champions League came crashing down on Monday after they succumbed to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Pohang Steelers at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.
The Malaysian champions had the perfect opportunity to solidify their second place in Group G with a win against the South Korean opposition but the defeat has them in a perilous position occupying third -- three points behind second-placed Pohang and six behind leaders Nagoya Grampus.
While their opening-day defeat to Japan's Nagoya could be attributed to a dubious refereeing decision, Monday's loss to three-time Asian champions Pohang was completely their own doing as they conceded three penalties on their way to a crushing defeat, despite scoring the opener.
Leandro Velazquez handed JDT the ideal start when he fired them ahead in the 17th minute via a deflected effort, but the hero turned villain only ten minutes later as he brought down Go Young-joon inside the box conceding a penalty that was converted by Borys Tashchy.
The Malaysian side's clumsy defending once again came to the fore as it was Mauricio who gave away the next penalty for a two-footed tackle that was guided home at the second attempt by Kang Sang-woo. Substitute Kwon Gi-pyo added a third in the 82nd minute before Lim Sang-hyub scored yet another from the spot to seal the win.
Before the two late strikes, the Southern Tigers had opportunities to equalise with Bergson da Silva, who had a goal controversially disallowed in the defeat to Nagoya, missing two gilt-edged chances. That has seemed to be a theme for the Malaysia Super League champions as they have found it difficult to turn chances into goals.
Qualifying for the knockout stages now seems to be a stretch for JDT, but they can begin the second half of their group stage campaign by taking revenge against Pohang who they face again on Thursday. A win will be vital to keep their knockout hopes alive heading into the final two matchdays.
But to get positive results in the coming days and boost their Round of 16 chances, Benjamin Mora's men will need to put away chances that are coming their way more often while also shoring up the defence.
Chiangrai off the mark after edging Tampines Rovers
Thai League 1 outfit Chiangrai United got their first points on the board with a 1-0 win over Singapore's Tampines Rovers in the second matchday in Group H, taking them just a point off Gamba Osaka and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who drew 2-2 in the other fixture of the day.
In the all-ASEAN clash at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent that was temporarily halted due to a power outage, Sivakorn Tiatrakul struck the winner with three minutes left on the clock to give the Beetles only their second win in the AFC Champions League.
While 2020 Singapore Premier League runners-up Tampines are yet to open their account, there have been positives for them to take as they have held their own against seasoned opposition in their debut season on the biggest stage Asian club football has to offer.
Chiangrai next take on Gamba in their third group game on Thursday, while the Stags face another tough test in the form of 2020 K League 1 champions Jeonbuk.