Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) team manager Ismail Ibrahim praised the efforts of two youngsters who helped secure an important 3-0 away victory over Cambodia's Boeung Ket Angkor to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage of the 2017 AFC Cup.
First-half goals from Safawi Rasid and Nazmi Faiz put the visitors in the driving seat on Wednesday night, before substitute Gabriel Guerra grabbed a third deep into added time.
But Ismail reserved special praise for rookie goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli and defender Dominic Tan, a Singapore Sports School graduate.
The Group F result at the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium puts JDT on track to qualify for the next phase as the best ASEAN runner up.
"We gave opportunities to all our young players to play [against Boeung Ket Angkor]," Ismail said via the Johor Southern Tigers Facebook page.
"Our new goalkeeper is only 19 years old, so is our defender Dominic Tan. It was a good opportunity for them to play. Hopefully they will use the experience to further improve their game."
Tan actually turned 20 last month, but is still inexperienced at regional level, having only made his debut for JDT II at the start of 2016.
With one eye on Saturday's Malaysia FA Cup quarterfinal against Pahang, JDT started with a relatively inexperienced lineup, missing captain Safiq Rahim, and lacking recognised forwards like Hazwan Bakri and Guerra. The latter only came on with nine minutes remaining.
"We played without strikers and those playing upfront were midfielders," Ibrahim explained. "The scorers were also our midfielders. We rested the team captain because we will have a very important match soon. A few of our [other] players were rested too to prepare for that game."
In the FA Cup, JDT trail 3-1 from the first leg in Kuantan, but would feel confident of overturning the deficit in front of their home fans at Larkin Stadium.
As for the AFC Cup, JDT are in second place on the table on 10 points, three behind Global FC of the Philippines. In the final matchday on May 3, JDT will be at home to Magwe, of Myanmar, while Global FC will host Boeung Ket Angkor. If Global draw or lose, and JDT secure victory, the Malaysian outfit would top the group.
"It was a meaningful win for JDT [in Cambodia]. We really needed the three points to close the gap with Global FC who also won their match. Thank you to all the players for giving their best to win," Ibrahim said.