MSL: JDT salavage a point at Selangor, Kelantan routed by PDRM
Malaysia Super League (MSL) champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will approach Tuesday's AFC Cup Group F game at the Larkin Stadium against India's I-League runners up East Bengal in a positive frame of mind. The Southern Tigers conceded early but were resilient to salvage a point in Saturday's MSL game against Selangor at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Former Argentina international striker Luciano Figueroa equalised in the 61st minute after Bojan Hodak's team conceded a goal in the very first minute. Though JDT were eyeing a win following their shock 1-0 away defeat against PDRM FA last week, they would have been the happier among the two teams with the eventual result.
Selangor, who lost to Terengganu in their season opener on Feb. 7 and drew with Malaysia Cup champions Pahang a week later, hit the ground running against the defending champions. Their Indonesian international winger Andik Vermansyah scored the fastest goal of the new season when he sidestepped the JDT defence and unleashed a shot from outside the box in only the 35th second.
Stunned by the early setback, the champions started to attack relentlessly. But Mehmet Durakovic's team defended bravely in a contest where tough tackles flew at both ends and tempers were getting frayed. JDT skipper and midfielder Safiq Rahim grappled with Selangor right-back Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq in the 33rd minute and when the referee did not caution Safiq but awarded a free-kick in his favour, Durakovic lost his cool in the technical area.
In the second period, JDT kept up the offensive. Eventually, the equaliser arrived just after the hour mark in controversial circumstances. Selangor goalkeeper Norazlan Razali collided with his left-back Azmi Muslim, who was left sprawled on the pitch. The referee waved on play allowing JDT to capitalise. Safiq's shot from outside the box crashed against the post and Figueroa pounced on the rebound and blasted the ball in.
The game became a more open affair following the Argentinian's goal. Both teams were desperate for the elusive winner but some good defending at both ends ensured that they shared points.
Following their mid-week assignment in the continental competition, the MSL champions will travel to Pahang on Sunday for their FA Cup first round game. JDT had defeated Zainal Abidin's side 2-0 in the MSL season opener at the Larkin Stadium on Jan. 31.
In Saturday's biggest upset, George Boateng's Kelantan -- who along with Perak were top of the standings after the second round -- were routed 4-0 in Kota Bharu by PDRM. The Red Warriors, who defeated 2013 champions LionsXII 2-0 in their previous game, had not conceded in their previous two matches but were all at sea defensively against the 2014 Malaysia Premier League champions. Maldives born striker Ali Ashfaq put the visitors ahead in first-half injury time and scored his second of the night in the 72nd minute. Sandwiched between Ali's two goals, PDRM's Mali born forward Dramane Traore scored his fourth goal of the 2015 season in the 54th minute. Gambia born winger Mohamadou Sumareh completed the rout in the 85th minute.
With Perak held 2-2 by Fandi Ahmad's LionsXII, Felda United joined them at the top of the standings after defeating Armed Forces FA (ATM) 2-1 in Selayang on Saturday. Goals from forwards Edward Wilson and Ahmad Syamim Yahya in the 14th and 26th minutes respectively helped Felda to tie with Perak with seven points apiece from three matches.
Big-spending ATM, who have lost all three of their matches, had the consolation of scoring their first goal of the 2015 season through Malaysia international striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.
In Saturday's other matches, Terengganu emerged 2-1 winners at home against Sime Darby and Sarawak were held by visitors Pahang to a goalless draw.
Terengganu's new signing, Brazil born striker Paulo Rangel, put his team ahead in first half injury time. Sime Darby's Serbia born striker Nemanja Vidakovic equalised in the 61st minute but Rangel scored his second of the night fifteen minutes later to clinch three points for the Turtles.