Johor Darul Ta'zim and Pahang played out a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup semi-final first leg as two foreign strikers find the targets
BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
The first of the two semi-final matches of the 2014 FA Cup sees JDT entertaining the visit of Pahang. In the Super League match earlier this season, saw one of the best matches ever played in the local footballing scene. Tickets for this match were reported to be sold out within 2 hours of the counters opening up.
From early on, the Southern Tigers wrested control of the match with Safiq Rahim and Hariss Harun dominating the midfield for the host while Mahali Jasuli and Amri Yahyah forming the double pivot on struggling Shahrizan Salleh down the right hand side. On the rare occasion in which JDT used the left side to attack, they found the opener.
A free kick was given when Saifulnizam blocked Nazrin Nawi’s cross with his hand in the 12th minute. A well worked routine saw Luciano Figueroa peeling off from the back post to the front, coming onto to Safiq’s accurate pass to slot home the opening goal of the match. Pahang’s defence just did not see that coming.
Dickson Nwakaeme was frustrated up front as the referee constantly blew for fouls against him while neither R. Gopinathan nor R. Surendren were getting much joy down the flanks. Just when JDT looked like they were going into half time with the lead intact, they were given a taste of their own medicine.
Pahang grabbed the equaliser in the 36th minute, also from a free kick routine. This time, Damion Stewart managed to get away from the slack Antonio to loop a header back across goal for the on-rushing Matias Conti to head home. With away goals rule in effect, this goal is a massive one for the travelling Elephants.
Chaos ensued right before half time when Stewart clumsily and rather forcefully clattered into Mahali. The national right back was hit right across his chest by Stewart’s swinging arm and was lucky he did not suffer a bad injury. It’s a reflection on the standard of refereeing that neither the referee nor his assistant deemed that as a foul worthy of even a yellow card.
That equaliser seemed to knock JDT’s confidence a little in the second half as the second period was more of an even affair. Pahang started to get more possession even though they couldn’t find the creativity to break down JDT’s stubborn defence for whom Fadhli Shas was playing superbly and Antonio completely shackling Nwakaeme. On the opposite end, Nazrin was much more involved in the second half than he was in the first, causing Saifulnizam all sorts of problem with his trickery on the ball.
The best chance of the half for the home side came through leading scorer, Figueroa. Good combination between Amri and Mahali on the right hand side, saw Figueroa presented with a shooting chance right on the penalty spot but scuffed his shot wide. At the other end, only the agile reaction of Izham Tarmizi to claim Surendren’s low drive that prevented Conti from a simple tap in at the far post.