YOU can’t blame Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players for feeling starstruck by the presence of Spanish World Cup hero Andres Iniesta in the 5-1 loss to Japan’s Vissel Kobe in Wednesday’s AFC Champions League Group G match.
Iniesta, who was part of Spain’s 2010 World Cup side, inspired the Emperor’s Cup winners with two assists, with Kejiro Ogawa scoring a hat-trick for the impressive win over the six-time Super League champions.
JDT team manager Luciano Figueroa said: “I think our players were a bit starstruck by Iniesta.
“They were not coming in as usual, and they kept looking at him... the ball watching punished us,” said Figueroa on the Johor Southern Tigers Facebook page yesterday.
“Vissel are a top-class team and the biggest spenders in the J-League.
“They have spent a lot in terms of football philosophy and have done it well. Their Japanese national players are also top class.
“But this is a good learning process for us to grow and understand what it takes to be playing at the highest level.
“We need to keep working hard to improve. The team will work on their weaknesses and do their best in upcoming matches.”
Following the win over JDT, coach Thorsten Fink said: “It was a good result for us. In the first half, we had some problems, but in the second we put them under more pressure and that’s why we succeeded and scored five goals.
“We knew we would have more ball possession and we wanted to play more offence. It was the right decision to play the way we did,” Fink told www.the-AFC.com.
Ogawa picked up the Most Valuable Player award for his performance.
“We were able to go into the game with a high level of concentration and I was able to perform well, so I feel good about that,” said Ogawa.
“But it’s still early. It’s still the first match and we need to stay focused and keep going forward. This is just the start.”