BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) kept up their winning run in the Super League with an easy 2-1 win over Penang at the Batu Kawan Stadium. It was a lethargic performance from the reigning champions but the seventh win on the trot keeps them on the right track to retain the title they won last year.
Benjamin Mora made two changes from the side that lost to Pahang with Azrif Nasrulhaq moving back into the right back slot replacing the injured S. Kunanlan with Azamuddin Akil coming in on the right side of the attacking trio. Aidil Zafuan parachuted in to partners Marcos Antonio with Fadhli Shas dropped.
As for the home side, Zainal Abidin Hassan stuck with the 4-5-1 formation with Mafry Balang and K. Reuben being the centre back of choice. Nigel Dabinyaba deployed as the lone front man with Zainal seeking to ensure that his side get enough cover at the back as the first priority.
Suprisingly it was the home side who threatened first when Syukur Saidin got onto Dabinyaba's cut back but his shot was well covered by Izham Tarmizi. Struck by that, JDT quickly went up the other end and fashioned what turned out to be the opening goal of the match.
Azamuddin was released down the right hand side and wasn't closed down by Rafiuddin Rodin. The JDT winger delivered a deep cross that Gonzalo Cabrera brilliantly headed a looping ball over Sani Anuar Kamsani to give the visitors the lead in the 7th minute of the match.
JDT doubled their lead in the 25th minute through Azamuddin. Safiq Rahim put in a decent free kick and Aidil's initial header was blocked by Sani Anuar. However, Aidil was given a second stab at it and duly nodded across goal for Azamuddin to have the simplest of tap ins.
At two nil down, Reuben taken off due to injury and Yong Kuan Yong being moved into the centre of defence - despite all that Penang were thrown a lifeline in the 38th minute when Fazly Mazlan clumsily brought down S. Kumaahran inside the box. Rafiuddin confidently step up to send Izham the wrong way to make it 1-2.
The second half began at a decent pace but quickly descended into a drab affair. JDT were happy to sit on their lead and go on the occasional foray forward. Even then, kept their full backs well within the halfway line and thus effectively only leaving four players against what was two lines of defence of Penang.
The one time that one of the full backs got forward, it almost resulted in a goal for the away side. Fazly produced a strong run on the left hand side and his cut back for Gabriel Guerra was perfect. However the Argentine dabble too long on the ball and Mafry was able to nip in to clear the danger.
JDT continued to have more of the possession but something was clearly lacking in their game. Perhaps it's because this was their 8th game in April and tiredness are creeping in. Even the stars of the side were having an off day - Safiq, Guerra and to an extent Cabrera look like they were struggling just to complete the simple passes.
Zainal brought on Faiz Subri but the Puskas award winner and the rest of his team mates spent more time chasing the ball than being on the ball. The combination of the two meant that the game lacked goalscoring chances and the largely forgettable second period ended without further notable action.
The result sees Penang continues to be stucked at the bottom of the Super League while JDT extends their lead at the top to five points after the closest rivals drop points on Wednesday night.