The Southern Tigers edged The Turtles in an entertaining 7-goal thriller to power their way to the top of the Malaysian Super League for the first time this season.
BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
Interestingly, both teams started with their leading scorers on the bench. Bojan Hodak omitted Luciano Figueroa (who has 10 this season); while Abdul Rahman Ibrahim left out Zairo Anuar (with a more modest return of 4 goals).
Norshahrul Idlan Talaha made a rare start for JDT in place of the Argentine, and he had a shot on goal almost immediately, but goalkeeper Sharbinee Alawee made a comfortable save. Terengganu went straight back up the pitch via Ashaari Shamsuddin, who had his heel clipped by Hariss Harun as he shaped to shoot. Moustapha Dabo struck the resulting free-kick around the wall and past Izham Tarmizi for the opener.
JDT’s other Argentine, Jorge Pereyra Diaz continuously found pockets of space to run at Terengganu’s defenders from his free role behind Mat Yo. One such run took him past Mazlizam to receive a lofted ball from Shakir Shaari, only to shoot into the side netting.
The away side were happy to sit back and absorb the pressure, and they soon responded in the 16th minute with a quick ball to Ashaari again, who rolled it back for ex-JDT target Nor Farhan Muhammad to casually lift it into the top of the net. 2-0 to Terengganu.
Just five minutes later, Diaz reduced the deficit as he held off Mazlizam’s pressure to tap home from close range after a typically-incisive cross by Mahali Jasuli. Mat Yo and Diaz then saw further attempts go wide, as Terengganu seemed to retreat into their shells.
The battle between Diaz and Vincent Bikana was a fierce one, but the Argentine was slowly getting the upper hand, wriggling past his marker to win a free-kick in the 36th minute. He stepped up to take it, and curled the ball masterfully through a gap in the wall and into the bottom corner.
A minute before half-time, the comeback was complete. Diaz again was the catalyst, taking a free-kick square to captain Amri Yahyah. His shot flew through a sea of players, and Sharbinee’s parry fell kindly to Mahali who crashed it past the goalkeeper to give his side the lead.
The home team continued where they left off in the second-half. Barely five minutes had elapsed before Diaz’s pressure on Bikana won back the ball and resultantly, a penalty. Cool as you like, Diaz stepped up and casually sent Sharbinee the wrong way for his first hat-trick of the season, and 7th goal in just 4 games since joining the club.
Terengganu’s came close with an Ismail Faruqi snapshot in the 55th minute that Izham pushed away.
Figueroa was introduced for the hat-trick hero with 22 minutes remaining, and was immediately involved, his sliding shot from Mat Yo’s pass drawing an incredible one-handed save from Sharbinee. Five minutes later, the party tricks started coming out as Figueroa combined beautifully with Mat Yo to carve open Terengganu’s defence and set up Amri. However, his attempted chip failed to match the sublime build-up play.
The away team continued to pressure JDT, and eventually pulled a goal back with six minutes left via Vincent Bikana’s powerful header from a Mario Karlovic free-kick. The Turtles proceeded to dominate the ball (even recording 72% possession at one point) in their quest for an equalizer, but without much penetration.
After 4 agonising minutes of added time, JDT held on for a 4-3 comeback win, to maintain their unbeaten home record and most importantly, leapfrog Selangor to the top of the Malaysian Super League for the first time this season.