Johor Darul Ta'zim skipper Safiq Rahim says the Southern Tigers need to step up to progress to the zonal final of 2017 AFC Cup after they came from behind to secure a 3-2 win over Philippines' Ceres-Negros in their semi-final first leg at the Larkin Stadium on Wednesday.
The Malaysia Super League giants conceded two crucial away goals after being 1-0 up. Tournament top-scorer Bienvenido Maranon and Fernando Rodriguez struck for Ceres in a span of four minutes after JDT's Gonzalo Cabrera opened the scoring on the big night.
Safiq then put JDT back on track with a late first-half equaliser. In a hard-fought second half, Safiq once again was in action as he assisted Ahmad Hazwan in the 68th minute to give the team a one-goal lead, which proved decisive at the final whistle.
Despite clinching a win at home, the two away goals might come back to haunt the Malaysian giants when they travel to Paanad Stadium, where Ceres have not lost a game in the ongoing tournament.
"For me, both sides have a chance. Ceres are one of the better teams. The one goal advantage is still ours. We have to be more disciplined, concentrated and focused. Anything can happen over there. I hope we still can qualify," Safiq said, as quoted by Goal.com
"We have [had] our good games before but those are in the past. We cannot take the easy way. Maybe tonight [Wednesday], we have certain parts that did not do too well because we conceded twice. But end of the day, we managed a win and that is good."
The former Malaysia international, who took his tournament tally to three when he netted the equaliser yesterday, also says playing a high-profile encounter during the fasting month, which begins five days prior to the return leg against Ceres, will not be a problem and that his teammates, most of whom are Muslims, are experienced enough to handle the situation.
"We have played in the fasting month before. Even in the league we played last season. We have the experience. What is important is for us to keep our momentum and take our chances. I am confident my team mates can overcome Ceres if we follow what is instructed," he added.