Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) needed a late intervention from Amirulhadi Zainal to secure all three points in Wednesday's Super League action at Shah Alam Stadium. A stubborn PKNS FC had for most parts keep the reigning champions quiet but eventually succumbed to Amirulhadi's late winner.
E. Elavarasan went for a back three of Fauzan Dzulkifli, Abdul Ghani and M. Sivakumar to stop the attacking threat of JDT while Benjamin Mora was able to recall Aidil Zafuan back into the starting line-up with Mohammed Ghaddar making his debut for the Southern Tigers.
It was the home side that was the first to threatened in the 7th minute when Fauzan spectacularly got onto to Nazrin Syamsul's well taken corner kick. However, Fauzan's spectacular bicycle kick effort was wonderfully pushed onto the bar by Farizal Marlias and JDT escaped the danger.
Elavarasan's formation seemed to be working as JDT struggled to play their way through the packed PKNS midfield, who was doing a magnificent job of stifling the league leaders. With his side unable to make headway up front, Mora pushed his three import in Ghaddar, Gabriel Guerra and Gonzalo Cabrera up against PKNS' back three, to give them a little bit more individual penetration.
In the final minute of the half, that alteration almost worked when Guerra put Ghaddar through but the Lebanese hesitated with his finishing and that allowed Zami Selamat to close him down.
The Red Ants continued to defend well in numbers through good positioning. Despite having less of the ball possession in the first half, PKNS know that they can be pleased that they stuck to their task and managed to keep it scoreless at half time.
In the opening period of the second half, PKNS started to throw a few more bodies forward and in doing so, created two shooting opportunities for Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh and Nazrin. However both players failed to keep their shots on target despite having time on their hands to compose themselves.
It wasn't until the 61st minute of the match that JDT were able to muster their first shot on target in the second period when Ghaddar was presented with a chance inside the box but again, he failed to beat the advancing Zamir and the ball trickled out harmlessly.
Mora threw on Hazwan Bakri in the 70th minute, to partner Ghaddar up front as JDT goes in search of the all-important goal and it only took eight minutes for the impact to be seen, although not directly through Hazwan's contribution.
Ghaddar received the ball on the left hand side and proceeded to drive towards the penalty box. The 18-goals striker's cross was eventually bundled in by the on-rushing Amirulhadi to give JDT a 1-0 lead.
The goal was ultimately enough for JDT to clinch all three points at Shah Alam Stadium and kept them six points ahead of their rivals as the league heads to a month-long break due to the fasting month. For PKNS, it was a valiant effort on their part but that extra little bit of quality from the opposition finally put them to the sword.