Johor got off to a perfect start in the Malaysia Cup, defeating 2012 champions Kelantan
BY MARK DAWSON
Johor will be confident that they can add another piece of silverware to their trophy cabinet after a dominant performance versus Kelantan. Throughout the game they were the livelier side, first going close on 10 minutes through often forgotten striker Safee Sali. It was Aidil Zafuan and Daudsu Jamaluddin who created the chance, with the latter getting onto a long throw and cutting back from the byline, however Safee's snapshot was desperately clawed away by Khairul Fahmi.
Seventeen minutes later and Singaporean midfielder Hariss Harun should have opened the scoring as he was picked out by a Jasuli cross 12 yards out, but he lashed his half volley over in a strike that lacked any composure. The home side were almost made to pay for his prolificacy five minutes later as the dangerous Francis Forkey Doe easily cut inside Aidil before crossing for Fitri Omar at the far post, but despite stretching he could not connect with the ball.
Five minutes before half time and Johor threatened again, this time with Nazrin Nawi the creator. He found space on the left-hand side of the Kelantan area, and he rolled a delightful cross for the onrushing Norshahrul, but again it was Khairul Fahmi who bailed his team out of danger, diving at the feet of the Johor forward to save.
On the stroke of half time the Red Warriors demonstrated that despite not being on top, that they were still a threat, as winger Wan Zahararulnizam fired just wide from 25 yards in a warning to the home side.
The second half saw the Southern Tigers continue to dominate, and they should have been ahead on 52 minutes as Fadhli Shas had a free header from only six yards out, however despite having time he meekly headed straight at Fahmi.
Still Kelantan were a threat on the counter, despite seeing little of the ball in open play, and on 64 minutes they had their best chance of the evening. Fitri Omar this time was the man leading the charge forward, crossing from the left where Johor defender Marcos Antonio dangerously fired against his own bar in trying to clear.
Twenty minutes before full-time Johor felt that they should have been given a penalty after the ever threatening Norshahrul was felled in the area following a collision with Afiq Kamaruddin, however despite seemingly having a strong case for a spot-kick the match officials remained unmoved.
However two minutes later and anger turned into the joy for the Johor faithful as they finally took the lead. This time it was two substitutes who linked up as Jasazrin Jamaluddin cut inside from the right-hand side before playing a precise through ball to an advancing Safiq Rahim who slotted home with distinction.
The home side grew in stature after the goal, moving the ball well. On 76 minutes they had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, as Antonio got on the end of a sumptuous Safiq delivery but was at least half a yard behind the Kelantan defence.
The Red Warriors did have a late surge to get back into the game, unsurprisingly spearheaded by Forkey Doe. On 83 minutes he cut in from the left-hand side before smashing a 20yard effort off the Johor crossbar. In added time the Liberian managed to get in-behind the Tigers defence where he was stopped by Antonio before he could get away a shot on goal, but despite his strong appeals no penalty was given and Kelantan's hopes of gaining a point were gone.