Malaysian Super League titleholders were up against the 2020 Asian Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai in a fierce match-up as both teams needed a win to qualify through the Asian Champions League round of 16.
JDT pressed Ulsan aggressively as they pinned three forwards to Ulsan’s back three as they looked to disrupt Ulsan from playing from the back and force the Ulsan’s goalkeeper to go long. In possession, JDT’s fullback would push higher up to the midfield line with one of their midfielders dropping to provide support and passing options, with their forwards contested for long balls. JDT had chances and almost scored a 2nd goal, which was wrongfully disallowed.
Ulsan Hyundai changed their formation multiple times as they tried to take advantage of Johor’s high defensive line. Ulsan could have created a lot of chances at goal but their final product was lacking, as they repeatedly overhit passes without accuracy and intention. With the last few seconds of the game, a goalkeeping scrap enabled Arif Aiman to cross it in for the winning goal which led Johor to a historical round of 16 debut and to top Group I.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
- C – Average for level, re-watch
- D – Below average in this match
Arif Aiman Hanapi
- Nationality: Malaysian
- Age: 19
- Date of birth: 04/05/2002
- Current club: Johor Darul Ta’zim FC
- Career: Johor Darul Ta’zim FC
- Position: Right Winger
- Secondary Position: Left Winger, Attacking Midfielder
- Preferred foot: Right
Arif Aiman played mostly on the right midfield in this match and likes to position himself wide. He has great control of the ball, dribbling technique, and has quick feet. Arif doesn’t complicate his dribbling as he needed a few touches to set himself away from the defenders. He has an exceptional pace and would glide across defenders with ease and simplicity due to his low centre of gravity, extraordinary balance and agility Arif does not often engage in aerial duels due to his height and stature but has great aggression and strength when engaging in ground duels. When he’s in a 1 on 1 situation, he isn’t afraid to take on his man. Arif loves to drive into space and is confident in taking on his man. He would stretch the wings and attack the byline as he looked to cross or cut back. He also likes to link up with his teammates by playing 1-2s and finding available space to create options. Arif has shown that he is not one-footed as he can use his left foot to pass. However, when dribbling he tends to use mostly his right foot. He has different passing techniques that vary from lobbed balls and outside the foot. Arif was then switched to LM as he made way for Safawi Rasid. When he played LM, Arif would mix his playing style by trying to cut inside or play it wide. He also looks to link up with his LB as he overlaps or underlaps more. Arif has a great cross and is able to retain possession when he’s under pressure. In my opinion, he looks more confident and plays a different style as a LM than a RM as he has different angles to occupy, whilst he’s more direct on the RW.
When JDT defended in the first half in a compact 5-3-2, Arif defended as the RWB. He is able to tackle well and does not lunge into unnecessary tackles. He’s also impressive in 1v1 defending, paired with aggression he is not easy to get past especially with his pace. Arif would initiate runs in behind to exploit the space but he might need to make a decision on whether he should run horizontally or diagonally as that could put him in a better situation. He worked tirelessly to press and was seen closing down his opponent intensely the moment the Ulsan’s LB was about to receive the ball. When he’s concentrated, he’s able to read the play as he is able to intercept a few passes. Arif was responsible for the winning goal when he crossed it in the box and was tapped into the net by the Ulsan’s defender.
Arif was the corner kick taker for his team, however, he needs to improve on his delivery as it wasn’t good enough and often found no one, or wasn’t delivered into dangerous positions. He still needs to improve on his concentration and awareness when man-marking his player as he tends to ball-watch and lose his man from 2nd or 3rd man runs. In this match, Arif was predictable in the way he played when he was positioned in the RM, as he had shown in other matches that he mixes between dribbling to the byline and dribbling diagonally. A situation in the match, he was in a 3v2 advantage but his shot was poor and could have capitalised on the man advantage. He has room to improve on his decision-making as he’s only 19 years old.
Rating – A2
Arif Aiman is one of the hottest prospects coming out of Malaysia’s football. He was one of the key players in this match and showed Asia he could compete in the biggest competition. He has the potential to be a level above his current level and with time, he’ll be on the radar for the bigger leagues in Asia and potentially in Europe.