Ceres 2 JDT 1: Late penalty drama ends JDT's campaign
Gonzalo Cabrera, Gabriel Guerra, Johor Darul Ta'zim, Ceres, AFC Cup, 31/05/2017
A dubious late penalty gave Ceres a 2-1 win over JDT that send the Southern Tigers packing out of the AFC Cup

Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) was shown the exit in the AFC Cup when Ceres-Negros FC defeated them 2-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate, advancing to the zonal final by virtue of their away goals advantage, to play Home United in the next stage.

Risto Vidakovic rewarded his players who played so well in Johor Bahru when he selects the same XI that started in the first leg. As for Benjamin Mora, changes came in the way of replacing Dominic Tan, Hazwan Bakri and Azrif Nasrulhaq with Aidil Zafuan, Mahali Jasuli and Amirulhadi Zainal.

JDT started brightly and could have taken the lead when Safiq Rahim's free kick was put into a very dangerous area but Gonzalo Cabrera just missed connecting with the ball and Roland Muller was able to smother the chance.

Then came the moment that could have swung the tie for JDT but the referee chose to take a lenient view over Manuel Herrera's kick out at Mahali after the two had clashed in a challenge. Amazingly the Spaniard wasn't even shown a yellow for his action.

Having two initial scares, Ceres turned the aggregate to their advantage in the 26th minute, in what was a similar move to that early free kick from Safiq. This time, Kevin Ingresso's free kick towards the near post was flicked in by Kot Kawase to give the home a 1- 0 lead.

Buoyed by the lead, Ceres started to control the play with Bienvenido Maradon dropping deep to dictate the game. With Jeffrey Christiaens bombing up on the left hand side, Mahali has been dragged out wide to provide cover, leaving the space for Ingresso, Maradon and Manuel Ott to have all the space they want in midfield.

With just one half of football left to get themselves back into the tie, Mora threw on Hazwan for Mahali after the interval and the forward quickly got into the groove of things. Hazwan was quick to turn Herrera inside the penalty box but the referee deemed the latter's block not sufficiently strong enough to award a penalty.

Mora make his second throw of the dice in the 63rd minute when he pulled out defensive midfielder for Safawi Rasid and change the formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2. That move seemed to lead to uncertainties in the Ceres side and JDT fully capitalised on it quickly.

In the space of just two minute after that, JDT had one shot just wide and one more that got them level in the match. Hazwan's with the first effort that went just wide but then Guerra ran onto Cabrera's brilliant through pass before beating Muller with a low shot to make it 1-1.

Ceres could have struck an immediate response when they got down the other end of the pitch but Jose Poteria lost his composure and failed to keep his shot down after arriving perfectly on-time for Iain Ramsay's cross. in the 67th minute.

While Ceres were impressive in the first half when they were faster and better on the ball as well as their decision making, the Guerra goal seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of them and made them realise the enormous energy that they have used in the first period - marked by the influential Maradon being substituted.

But there would be another twist to the tale. Deep into stoppage time, referee decided that Aidil had committed a foul inside the penalty box and Ceres were awarded a penalty. Fernando Rodriguez calmly put away the spot kick to give Ceres the win. Infuriated by the decision, Farizal Marlias remonstrated strongly with the referee and was eventually shown a straight red card but by then, the damage was already done.

Ultimately, Guerra's 8th goal of the AFC Cup campaign wasn't enough to secure progression to the next stage. Ceres had undoubtedly provided the stiffest challenge to JDT in this year's competition but the Southern Tigers would feel hard done by getting knocked out this way.