Johor were made to pay for a sloppy first half as they could only come away from PKNS with one point
BY MARK DAWSON
The threat of PKNS's star forward Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh was apparent as early as in the 12th minute as the Liberian went on a mazy run from inside his own half. Allowed to travel up the field unchallenged, it was a let-off for the slack Johor side when he fired his shot well over the bar from 25 yards. A minute later and the visitors still hadn't learned their lesson as they allowed Karlo Primorac to take aim from distance, but his effort also sailed over harmlessly.
While the strikers of the Red Ants were looking dangerous, they were often ably assisted by poor Johor defending which made their lives all too easy. Another example of this came on 25 minutes as Aidil Zafuan played Primorac onside inside the Johor area, but his powerful strike could could only find the side netting.
Johor, who were looking comfortable in possession but failing to create many clear-cut chances, fashioned their first real opening on 35 minutes through a trademark Mahali Jasuli burst forward. He combined well with Luciano Figueroa before making his way into the box, but his sliding effort at full stretch drifted harmlessly wide.
The opening goal came on 37 minutes and it was little surprise that Patrick Ronaldinho was the man to strike. It came after Primorac sucked in three Johor players before playing a cute ball over the top of their defence, allowing Aminuddin Mohd Noor to get in behind them and cut the ball back. Faiz Isa connected with the cross, hitting a fierce first time snap-shot which Izham Tarmizi did well to save, but he had no chance as Ronaldinho pounced on the rebound to steer home expertly.
Four minutes before the break and the home team were convinced they had made it two, after captain Fauzan Dzulkifli left Tarmizi rooted to the spot with a free-kick from 25 yards. However the ball curled narrowly wide allowing the Johor keeper to breathe a sigh of relief. Johor then thought they were level two minutes before the break as the dangerous Argentine Figueroa rose highest to meet Asaruddin Putra's centre, but Zamir Selamat did well to instinctively keep out his downward header.
Johor, who introduced Sariq Rahim at half-time demonstrated their attacking prowess two minutes into the second half as they almost drew level. Norshahrul, Figueroa and Safee linked up well, with Safee eventually releasing Safiq into the PKNS area where he forced Selamat into a tremendous low save.
The Southern Tigers looked a team transformed in e opening stages of the second period, relentlessly attacking the PKNS backline with Safiq bombing forward from midfield to assist. Considering this it was no surprise that they did eventually draw level on 57 minutes. The goal actually came from a counter attack the likes of which PKNS had threatened with, as Safiq bought the ball forward before feeding Norshahrul, who then passed to an overlapping Jasuli who fired low and hard across Selamat into the bottom corner of the net.
The next 20 minutes resembled a training ground exercise of attack vs defence, as the Southern Tigers took residence in the PKNS half with Norshahrul and Figueroa floating with menace, but failing to create any real goal scoring opportunities.
The defensive job for PKNS got harder on 86 minutes as P. Gunanlan was shown a second yellow card after a foul on Safee Sali, although replays showed that he may of been harshly done by. It seemed as if their resistance had been broken on 89 minutes as Figueroa got in behind the defence and crossed for Safee, but with an open goal gaping he somehow managed to head wide much to the disbelief of his teammates.
This was the last significant chance of the game, and despite having over 70% of possession, Johor will once again have to reflect on points dropped away from home.