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Johor topple Suwon as AFC Champions League takes huge viral hit

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – Johor Darul Ta’zim celebrated a first AFC Champions League outing at their new stadium with a 2-1 win over Suwon Bluewings in the competition’s only match played Tuesday because of the coronavirus.

The Group G match in the southern Malaysian city, along with Wednesday’s Sydney v Jeonbuk clash in Group H, are the only fixtures this week to survive the havoc caused to Asia’s top club competition.

Johor’s state-of-the-art $50 million Sultan Ibrahim Stadium was opened last week and can seat 40,000, but it was just over half full to see Malaysia’s sole Champions League representatives in action.

The fans that did attend were soon roaring when, in the 12th minute, Johor’s Brazilian forward Diogo was brought down by Min Sang-gi. 

Although the contact looked marginally outside the box, referee Alireza Faghani pointed to the spot.

Gonzalo Cabrera slammed home the spotkick but six minutes into the second half the visitors were level.

Terry Antonis was allowed too much time on the edge of the box before lifting a delicious curling left-foot finish over goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.

Johor were not to be denied at their glitzy new home and in the 73rd minute another Brazilian, Mauricio, headed home the winner from six yards out.

It capped a rare 90 minutes of action with football in Asia plunged into chaos by the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak.

All domestic football in China has been suspended indefinitely, while the start of Korea’s K-league and Japan’s J-League have been delayed, with travel restrictions forcing most matches in the AFC Champions League to be postponed.

Extra dates for group games have been pencilled in for April, May and June to clear the backlog, but it means last-16 games not beginning until August, two months later than normal.

“These are challenging and unprecedented times,” said Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general Windsor John after emergency talks in Kuala Lumpur with East Asia club representatives on Monday.

Delegates for the West Asia clubs, whose entire Champions League programme was postponed this week, will hold emergency talks with the AFC at the weekend in the United Arab Emirates. 

The West and East competitions are played separately until the final.

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