Playing away from home is a tough task for any club. Playing away at the home of Johor Darul Ta’zim is tougher. The Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos or most popularly known as Larkin Stadium has been the stronghold for JDT since the club’s rebirth. Kaya FC was the first Filipino club to visit the home of the Southern Tigers and one of those players who came was former Kaya defender and now Ceres player Junior Muñoz.
“It was hard for us to adjust,” said Muñoz as rain poured minutes before kickoff in their one-game knockout match. “But for them I think they (JDT) already know what to do when it rains or it doesn’t. They were prepared for it and for us (Kaya), it was just how it was. If it rains like that, its so hard to play football and its not like we’ve trained and got used to that condition,” the former Kaya player added.
Kaya were overrun that night by the Southern tigers to the tune of 7-2. The capacity crowd was a big factor during that match especially when the home team got an unfavorable call. “You would hear it definitely from everyone. That’s the big advantage for JDT when they play home. I really think the reaction of the crowd had an influence in the referees,” added the defender.
JDT’s home stadium can host up to 30,000 fans who are known to give an intimidating atmosphere especially against visitors. “During the game the fans were there the whole time, the full 90 minutes. Even though they were up big, there was still this enthusiasm from the fans and that’s what I like about them. That’s the real die-hard fans,” said the Netherlands-born Filipino.
Another capacity crowd is expected when JDT hosts Ceres-Negros in the first leg of their Asean Zonal semifinals. When asked if his previous experience would help in the forthcoming match, the Ceres defender exclaimed, “Yeah definitely. Especially for me as a defender in the box. It happened to me before (in the group stage) also against Tampines. You have to adjust, you can’t even touch the attacker inside the 18-yard box. Its that hard to defend.”
Muñoz expects another tough match against JDT in Larkin Stadium come Wednesday. Armed with previous experience against the same opposition, the current Azkals defender is already looking for some form of payback with the help of his new club. “I’ve played there before and at least I know how it feels. I think its gonna be a good game,” said Muñoz.
The first leg semifinal of JDT and Ceres-Negros will kickoff at 845PM on Wednesday, May 17 with the match shown live over Fox Sports.
Photo from Stephen Tan