Bojan Hodak's men claimed valuable three points after securing a close 3-2 victory over LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium
BY KEESHAANAN SUNDARESAN Follow on Twitter
In fact, the Southern Tigers created the first chance of the game, with Luciano Figueroa directing a header towards goal on the 9th minute mark. However, the header was deflected off a defender and it made things much easier for Izwan Mahbud.
Two minutes later, the Argentinean turned provider by threading a through ball for Safee Sali, and the Malaysian striker did extremely well to pounce on it. However, Shakir Hamzah left no stones unturned by clearing it away effectively.
LionsXII missed a good chance on the 20th minute mark, as the Johor defence struggles to clear a free kick attempt, allowing Khairul Amri to fire a shot. But the Singapore forward scuffs his attempt, but Faritz puts a shot way beyond the target.
Three minutes later, LionsXII came even closer as Gabrial Quak does brilliantly down the flanks, before crossing in for Khairul Amri. But the latter horrendously volleys above the bar, despite being a mere six yard away from goal.
But Johor DT did not stop pushing on the offense, and they were immensely disciplined as well, as far as sticking to the plan goes. Diaz continued to be a threat down the flanks, and created a glorious chance for Safee on the 30th minute mark. But the ex-Selangor man's connecting attempt was parried away by Izwan Mahbud.
Just when you thought that the game needed a goal to spark life into it, Faris Ramli turned on the style with a blockbuster striker from an acute angle; much to the delight of the home fans. 37 minutes gone, and the hosts were 1-0 up.
Four minutes later, Fandi Ahmad's men doubled their lead. This time around, Zulfahmi Arifin finds the back of the net with an exquisite free kick attempt, that left Izham Tarmizi helpess. In a matter of four minutes, LionsXII were 2-0 up.
Football can, and has always been a nerve-wrecking game, and there was more drama on the 43rd minute as the Southern Tigers reduced the deficit. Jorge Diaz, who was an incredible threat throughout the first half, fired a cheeky attempt over Izwan and into the net, to pull one back for the away side.
Dynamics of the game were certainly altered after the break, with Johor looking determined than ever to seize control of it. Mahali Jasuli was brought on for Safee Sali, allowing Jorge Diaz a more central role in the game.
But the home side did not do themselves any favour either, by conceding a penalty just seven minutes after the restart. Luciano Figueroa stepped up and effectively dispatched it to restore parity. On the 54th minute mark, it was 2-2.
Credits to LionsXII though as they kept pushing. Safuwan's long range attempt was deflected off the post on the 57th minute, before Firdaus' curling attempt was collected easily by Izham. Diaz almost got his second goal of the night on the 69th minute mark, but his close attempt was blocked by a last ditch challenge from Afiq. Incredible defending.
Five minutes later, Diaz did get his second of the night. Figueroa produces a definitive through ball for Diaz, who does well with his first touch, before placing the ball into the bottom corner to complete an incredible turnaround for the Southern Tigers.
LionsXII kept pushing hard to find a late equalizer that would have secured them at least a point. Safuwan's free kick was parried away by Izham before Hafiz unleashed a powerful shot that unforunately sailed way over the bar.
At the end of the game, JDT emerged as victors after an incredible comeback that was led by their impeccable foreign duo; Luciano Figueroa and Jorge Diaz.