The impact of Bojan Hodak was visible as his 10 man Johor side picked up another gutsy victory
BY MARK DAWSON
Perak began the match in a lively manner, looking to attack Johor down the flanks, attempting to expose Daudsu Jamaluddin while trying to feed Milan Purovic, who was constantly making life difficult for both Aidil Zafuan and Fadhli Shas. The powerful forward came close on 15 minutes when he met a corner at the far post, with his header hitting the crossbar and going behind, after Izham Tarmizi had been caught in no mans land.
Minutes before this it was Noor Hazrul who had the games first significant opportunity as he tested Tarmizi from 35 yards out. Attempting to channel his inner Ronaldo he took aim from distance with a free kick, however his firm effort was too central allowing the Johor custodian to save comfortably.
The visitors went ahead against the run of play on 16 minutes thanks to a well worked goal finished off by Nazrin Nawi. It was the sublime control of Luciano Figueroa which set up the move, as his flick back found Shakir Shaari who instantly picked out a wide open Nawi inside the area. He gave Razi Effendi no chance with a powerful drive which cannoned off both posts before nestling in the net.
The Argentinian striker Figueroa came close to making it two soon after this as he linked well with Norshahrul who teed him up for an opportunity on the edge of the area. His effort had the required strength to beat Effendi, but went narrowly over the crossbar as Johor demonstrated the attacking quality they have in abundance.
The rapid tempo of the opening 25 minutes soon dropped off, with both teams huffing and puffing but failing to create any chances of note. It took until added time at the end of the first half for the games next chance as Noor Hazrul was inches away from pulling his team level. Despite Johor having eight men back defending a set piece, their defensive frailties appeared once again as they allowed Mohd Nurhakim's delivery to make its way to the far post where Hazrul was waiting, however he snatched at his shot and sent it into the side netting.
Perak should have been level within three minutes of the start of the second half as a Purovic header again rattled the crossbar. It came from another set-piece after Amirulhadi Zainel had felled Mohd Nurhakim 30 yards out. Noor Hazrul delivered a teasing ball into the Johor area where Purovic beat Aidil to the ball, however he was harshly judged to have fouled the Johor defender which would have meant the header being chalked off had it crept in.
Pablo Aimar made his much awaited return on 60 minutes and almost instantly provided an assist for his team. He uncharacteristically won a header to flick the ball on and release goal scorer Nazrin, but he couldn't find the same finish that he displayed in the first half as he steered his shot wide of the post.
While Perak were looking at their most dangerous whenever they had a chance to put a set-piece into the area, where they could expose an uncertain Tarmizi, the Argentinian tandem of Johor were showing signs of their chemistry as Figueroa went close on 66 following Aimar's pass.
Johor's task of picking up maximum points became harder on 68 minutes after Amirulhadi Zainal received his marching orders. Already on a yellow card he foolishly kicked the ball away after being flagged offside, with the referee deeming the dissent to be severe enough to flash him his second caution of the evening.
While Nurhakim and Nasir Basharuddin tried their luck from distance, Perak had little opportunities of note in the 20 minutes after gaining their numerical advantage, with Johor managing to deal with their limited attacking threat comfortably while themselves looking a danger on the counter-attack. Although Johor did continually give away foolish free-kicks in dangerous areas, Perak did not have the quality to punish them.
The game got more and more fractured as time expired, with the home side guilty of several rash challenges, and the Southern Tigers eager to stay down for as long as possible to chew up the clock. The visitors comfortably saw out four minutes of stoppage time to pick up their second consecutive 1-0 win under Bojan Hodak.