Reigning Liga Super Malaysia champions Johor Darul Ta’zim are now one step away from clinching their seventh straight league title after showcasing yet another ruthless and merciless brand of football at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium on Saturday night. Hosting Selangor FA in their Matchweek 8 clash, JDT were once again showed no mercy at home comforts as the Red Giants were routed 6-1. The three points meant that JDT, imperious since the Liga Super’s restart in late August, are now only a win or a draw away from yet another league silverware.
JDT head coach Benjamin Mora made some alterations to his starting lineup on Saturday night, with Fadhli Shas coming in for the suspended Mauricio and Afiq Fazail being replaced from his midfield post by Nazmi Faiz. Other than those couple of changes, Mora’s usual big guns in Diogo, Gonzalo Cabrera, and Safawi Rasid to name a few are raring to go.
Meanwhile, Selangor head coach B. Sathianathan was deprived of the services of Brendan Gan, who was suspended for Saturday’s match. Knowing that beating JDT at their own backyard is a mammoth of a task, Sathianathan called upon the experienced duo of Khyril Muhymeen and Wan Zack Haikal to rally the Red Giants against a seemingly invincible Southern Tigers side.
The first half was an evenly balanced encounter, with JDT knocking on Selangor’s door a couple of times through Diogo and Cabrera. And it came as no surprise to many that it was the Southern Tigers who drew first blood – Diogo won JDT a free-kick at the edge of the box in the first minute of stoppage time and Safawi executed the set piece brilliantly, his ball curving around the Selangor wall and left Selangor goalie Farizal Harun utterly stranded as the ball went into the near post. 1-0 JDT and that was the scoreline as the referee blew for half-time.
The opening three minutes of the second half saw an incident that would change the course of the match dramatically – Selangor’s Nicholas Swirad had fouled Diogo outside the Selangor penalty box, which would normally result in a free-kick for JDT. However, instead of awarding JDT a free-kick, referee Zulkarnain Zakaria awarded JDT a penalty, much to the dismay of the Selangor camp. Zakaria stuck by his guns though and Safawi’s spot-kick easily defeated Farizal to make it 2-0 JDT.
From thenceforth, the floodgates were well and truly opened – a powerful left-footed strike from Diogo made it 3-0 JDT after 64 minutes, before Cabrera made it four on the night two minutes afterwards. And in the 72nd minute substitute Ramadhan Saifullah made it 5-0 with a close-ranged shot, taking advantage of Farizal unable to clear Diogo’s earlier effort far enough. The young rising star wasn’t done there, though, and in the 75th minute Ramadhan placed the icing on JDT’s cake with a curling effort from the edge of the box that left Farizal well and truly beaten to make it 6-0 for the Southern Tigers.
There was enough time for Selangor to grab themselves a consolation, with substitute Rufino Segovia taking advantage of a Sean Selvaraj cross to earn Selangor a goal. However, the damage had already been done long ago and despite JDT finishing the match with 10 men after substitute Syamer Kutty Abba was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the dying minutes of the match, the Southern Tigers stood strong to claim the comprehensive 6-1 victory over the shellshocked Red Giants.
Elsewhere, university side UiTM FC moved up to third in the Liga Super table after giving Terengganu FC their third straight defeat at the UiTM Stadium in Shah Alam. The Lion Troops edged out the Turtles 2-1, with the hosts claiming a 4th minute lead courtesy of Arif Anwar. Terengganu did equalized in the 38th minute after a brilliantly-taken penalty from captain Lee Tuck, however former SHB Da Nang defender Victor Nirennold struck home a 60th minute winner to ensure that Frank Bernhardt’s university boys are well and comfortable in the Liga Super’s top half.
Matchweek 8 continues on Sunday with a Pahang Derby between FELDA United and Pahang FA at the Tun Abdul Razak Stadium in Jengka, while Melaka United host Petaling Jaya City at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Krubong. Basement dwellers PDRM FA host Perak FA at the KLFA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, while the Monday kick-off saw Kedah FA hosting Sabah FA, also at the KLFA Stadium. With Alor Setar being placed underneath the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) by the Malaysian authorities due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Kedah were unable to host Sabah at their Darul Aman Stadium, instead opting to play their home match at a neutral venue that is the KLFA.