JDT thrashed by Muang Thong in ACL playoff in Thailand
Muang Thong United striker Heberty Fernandes put on an attacking masterclass as the Thais thumped Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) 5-2 in a surprisingly one-sided AFC Champions League (ACL) Second Preliminary Round.
JDT's defensive frailty was ruthlessly exposed by Heberty and his teammates, with the Brazilian netting twice, while Sarach Yooyen, Tristan Do and Theerathon Bunmathan also got on the scoresheet.
Pereyra Diaz pulled two back in added time for the beleaguered visitors to salvage some pride.
JDT were missing the injured defender Marcos Antonio and striker Luciano Figueroa, while Safawi Rasid, who had starred in the Malaysia under-23 side's run to the AFC U23 Championship quarterfinal, was also unavailable.
But no one could have predicted the ease with which the hosts destroyed the Malaysian champions in the first half-hour.
In the third minute, Muang Thong squandered a great opportunity when Teerasil Dangda released Theerathon down the left. With lots of space to run into and several options in the box, Theerathon took too long to release the ball and was closed down by Fazly Mazlan.
JDT quickly responded and Diaz found Safiq Rahim breaking on the right, but the skipper fired into the side netting from an angle.
But for the second time, a simple ball from the back found the JDT defence completely open. In the seventh minute, Do's ball over the top found Adisak Kraisorn moving into the box and the striker had time to look up and roll the ball across to Sarach, who tapped into an empty net.
The Malaysian side were struggling with the movement of the hosts, who came within inches of doubling their lead in the 19th minute.
After excellent work from Heberty, Teerasil split the defence again, finding Adisak clean through. But the striker put his effort wide of Izham Tarmizi's goal.
The reprieve was temporary as Muang Thong added a second in the 21st minute. Heberty found Theerathon with a neat through ball and he simply cut the ball across for Do to tap home.
And Muang Thong didn't have long to wait for the third as Teerasil was upended by Bruno Soares in the penalty area after riding several challenges.
The Brazilian defender was fortunate not to see a second yellow card before Heberty slotted home the spot-kick to make it 3-0 with just 29 minutes on the clock.
There was little for the visiting fans to shout about. Hazwan Bakri fired a cross into the arms of Kampol Phathomattakul and Safiq's free kick from a promising position drifted harmlessly wide on two rare forays forward.
Before the half-time whistle, JDT made a change as Fazly was replaced by Azrif Nasrulhaq in a tactical switch as Ulisses Morais attempted to tighten things up at the back.
The Southern Tigers made a brighter start to the second half as they pressed the home side into making several errors.
Syafiq Ahmad turned inside Do in the 50th minute and flashed a shot into the side netting from just inside the penalty area to send out a warning.
But the hosts demonstrated their quality when it mattered and went 4-0 ahead in the 57th minute with a clinical attack.
Adisak fed the ball inside to Heberty on the edge of the box, and the Brazilian slipped the ball left to Theerathon, who lined up his shot and drilled it into the corner from 14 yards.
Syafiq was then booked for hauling down Teerasil on the edge of the JDT box as the Kirins threatened again.
But the fifth goal was merely delayed as Heberty curled the resulting free kick into the top corner in the 61st minute.
New striker Jaja Coelho came on for Adisak to make his competitive debut as Muang Thong cruised through the final stages.
Diaz fired home an impressive long-range effort for JDT in added time before running through the defence to add a second, but it was little consolation after such a humbling experience.
While Muang Thong can now look forward to next week's ACL playoff at Kashiwa Reysol, JDT will have to look into how things went so badly wrong before beginning their defence of the Malaysia Super League and starting their AFC Cup campaign.
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