Johor Darul Ta'zim were made to work hard for a point at Petaling Jaya Municipal Council Stadium on yesterday in a 4-goal thriller against 10th placed Petaling Jaya City FC, but will still win the 2020 Malaysia Super League should Kedah not collect all three points against Pahang tonight.
The reigning champions opened the scoring in the 35th minute through Safawi Rasid but PJ City roared back into contention in an action packed final 10 minutes of the first half. Christie Jayaseelan slotted home a rebound just a minute later before Washington Brandao's pace caused havoc to JDT's defence.
Farizal was forced to take down Brandao and K. Gurusamy slotted home the ensuing spot kick right in the 45th minute but conceded a penalty of their own in the stoppage time of the first half, which Gonzalo Cabrera converted for the visitors.
After the half time break, JDT came out the better side but despite their dominance in possession, were only limited to attempts from distance which Kalamullah Al-Hafiz in PJ City's goal dealt with. This is the second straight Super League match against PJ City which JDT have not managed to come out on top but head coach Benjamin Mora does not see them quite as the bogey team just yet.
"Yes, they can fight. They can try to challenge a little bit tougher and harder. They run because they have a lot of stamina. They have fast players, so that element provoked we had a difficult night. That is a normal thing. Many teams challenge JDT this way.
"We have a short memory. We think of the 7-0, the 6-1 and it's not the same. At the beginning of the season, UiTM gave us problems at home, Felda gave us problems at home and also Terengganu gave us problems when we play away there recently, so it's not only PJ City who give JDT problems.
"But it's okay. It's fine because we can get a wake up call in our performance. Tonight (Friday) we controlled the situations and the actions with the ball. We had more possessions but suffered a little bit the fast attacks and counter attacks that PJ City did because we defensively were a little shaken in some situations.
"In the second half, we did a good job controlling our game and developing what we wanted. We tried from the flanks, from the middle, we try connecting but it just couldn't go in. But that's how it is, the point for me is good. I always judge the players by the attitude and the effort, and that was very good," said Mora in the post-match press conference.
When fit, JDT have three more than credible options at right back in S. Kunanlan, Matthew Davies and Azrif Nasrulhaq. However all three were not available for selection last night and Mora was forced to call upon Brazilian Mauricio dos Santos Nascimento to fill the void.
A reshuffle was made late in the first half after Fadhli Shas was stretchered off injured, Adam Nor Azlin came in at right back and Mauricio was pushed back into the centre of defence alongside Aidil Zafuan. While not ideal, Mora wasn't too worried about the former Lazio man's performance in the wider berth.
"Mauricio at the beginning did a great job. He's a very intelligent player, he's played there in Italy and Russia. So he knows that position. When Fadhli came out injured, then Adam came in and did a great job. That was not the problem. The problem was that they were attacking with five, with the flanks and we were pressing so high that when the long balls came, we were very far.
"That provoked an overload in the flanks at some points. But we fixed it on the board with the instructions and you can see in the second half, nothing happened," explained Mora.