B. Sathianathan rallied his team to another rousing display to send JDT reeling from an away defeat
BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
First of the last the last 3 matches before the end of the Super League season sees league leaders Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) travel to Selayang to face ATM. The hosts have already dented the hopes of one title challenger in Selangor in the previous game and harbour hopes of springing their second consecutive surprise.
Coach, B. Sathianathan opted for a more defensive approach by fielding a back 5 that includes Nor Fazly, Park Yong Ho and Muhd Safwan as the centre backs. Meanwhile Bojan knew that he had to pick up 3 points and thus adopted a more offensive tactic that includes Norshahrul Idlan, Luciano Figueroa and Pereyra Diaz in the starting line-up.
The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges, keeping Syed Adney on his toes throughout the first 30 minutes of the game. Unsurprisingly, Diaz was to be at the centre of most of the attacks, combining well with his striker partners. However, JDT were limited to shots from distance and just couldn't find the accuracy or power to trouble Syed Adney.
Against the run of play, ATM drew first blood 5 minutes before the end of the first half. Fabrics Noël won a foot race with Fadhli Shas down on the right hand side and drove to the byline. His subsequent pass was perfect for the on-rushing Bruno Martelotto who chested it down before lifting the ball over Izham Tarmizi for the opening goal.
Martelotto could have increased his personal tally if not for the quick reflexes of Izham to tip away his chip right before the half time whistle. A stadium containing mostly JDT fans would find their team one down at half time against a very organised home team and in trouble of losing their grip on the top spot.
Bojan made an immediate change at the start of the second half bringing on midfield schemer Safiq Rahim for Shakir Shaari. JDT were on the ascendency and started bossing possession again. Figueroa was the closest to threaten when his chip in the 59th minute was tipped over the bar by Syed Adney.
What was a molehill, quickly became a mountain for JDT when ATM doubled their lead, again from a quick break benefiting from JDT's defence in sixes and sevens. Affizie Faizal found Noël in acres of space on the right and gleefully accepted the return pass to slot home the ball beyond the despairing dive of Izham.
Nazrin Nawi and Amirulhadi Zainal were thrown into the fray as JDT went for broke and tried to at least salvage a point from this match. Yet, even with all the firepower that they have, JDT were unable to breach the defence that was well marshalled by the lanky figure of Yong Ho. The Korean was the calming influence at the back for ATM, constantly barking out orders to ensure that his team mates were never out of position.
When the goal did come in the 85th minute, it set up a frantic finale to the match. Fadhli Shas could have equalised but his shot hit the bar. Then both got a man sent off including Aidil Zafuan who looked like a man possessed, getting the red card for handling the referee. The final talking point of the game was what looked like a clean challenge from Syed Adney on Diaz inside the penalty box. The entire JDT bench thought otherwise.
In the end, it was a surprisingly comfortable win for Sathianathan's boys against JDT side that lacked the conviction of a title challenger. Two games left on the schedule and the title race is still very much wide open.