Excellent wing-play the highlight, as the Southern Tigers and the Elephants share four goals in an entertaining match.
BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
Both coaches sprang surprises with their starting lineups, Bojan Hodak omitting captain Aidil Zafuan; while Zainal Abidin left star midfielder Hafiz Kamal on the bench in favour of Faizol Hussein.
New Argentine import Jorge Diaz had the first chance of the game, scuffing a shot wide of Khairul Azhan’s far post in the 8th minute after Marcos Antonio headed the ball into his path. Pahang’s Matias Conti replied ten minutes later with a quick turn and shot from a clever Fauzi Roslan reverse ball, but it was well blocked by Marcos.
The Southern Tigers were dominating the ball, with Safiq Rahim keeping things moving smoothly in midfield, while Marcos was adept at both bringing the ball out of defence and heading Pahang long-balls into the box safely to his teammates.
Pahang were temporarily reduced to ten men in the 22nd minute after Mohd Saiful Nizam’s clumsy follow-through took out his own teammate, Azidan Sarudin. JDT took quick advantage, as Safee Sali thrashed a powerful shot at goal, saved by Khairul Azhan.
Barely a minute later, and JDT had the lead. Diaz danced down the left wing, easily beat two defenders, before he cut the ball back to the onrushing Luciano Figueroa. JDT’s top scorer scored his eighth league goal to put his team 1-0 up.
Hafiz Kamal finally replaced Azidan, and Pahang leveled in the 36th minute with another great bit of wing play. Mahali was caught upfield for the umpteenth time, and a quick spin by R. Gopinathan released himself into acres of space.
Both JDT center-backs were preoccupied with Conti, leaving Azamuddin Akil to arrive late and slot past Izham Tarmizi for the equalizer.
Marcos Antonio had to head several crosses away as Pahang took charge for the rest of the half, but both teams trooped in at half-time with a goal apiece.
JDT began the second half with their second goal. Again, Jorge Diaz performed some wing wizardry to get past Zesh Rehman. He held off the challenge of Azamuddin Akil and cut the ball back for Safiq Rahim, who expertly half-volleyed past Khairul Azhan to give JDT the lead.
Pahang were swamped, and JDT began a period of dominance which saw Safiq grab three further shots on target as Pahang struggled to deal with his late runs into the box. Figueroa and Safee Sali also had chances, but national goalkeeper Khairul Azhan foiled them all.
Chasing the game, Zainal Abidin introduced Dickson Nwakaeme and Jalaluddin Jaafar in a double substitution. Conti fired straight at Izham in the 75th minute, and a minute later, the former-Harimau Muda goalkeeper did very well to parry a powerful strike by Gopinathan onto the bar and over, after the speedy winger got past Mahali again.
Izham looked to have preserved his team’s victory after palming away a dipping shot by Dickson with three minutes to go, but he was soon struck by an unfortunate lapse of concentration. Gopi sped past Hariss Harun and Marcos into the box, and his cross-shot was fumbled into goal by Izham for Pahang’s second equalizer of the night.
Safiq had a late chance to win it in added time, but stumbled under the challenge of Stewart. The match finished 2-2, and both teams maintain their positions in 2nd and 3rd spot, paving the way for Selangor FA to expand their lead at the top when they face Sime Darby tomorrow