Johor Darul Takzim- Pahang Preview: Tok Gajah look to get crucial first-leg lead

A fascinating tie awaits as two teams that have split victories over one another this season do battle again for a place in the FA Cup final


Jalaluddin - Stewart - Razman
- Shahrizan
R.Surendran - Amirul Zainal - Faizol - Gopinathan
Azamuddin Akil (C)

Ramli - Aidil - Kamarul (c) - Nazri
Ezrie - Jamaluddin - Andrezinho - Roya
Norshahrul - Nunez

While improved league form has suddenly got the Southern Tigers dreaming of MSL success once again, the FA Cup perhaps offers the best chance of immediate success for Johor’s supportive backers this season.  Standing between them and the final are a resolute Pahang team, with whom Johor have some history this season, losing 2-3 to them on the opening day of the season, before gaining a measure of revenge with a 1-0 victory a month ago.

Since back to back defeats against ATM and Perak, Johor have reignited their season with three consecutive victories over PKNS, T-Team and Kelantan.  Their 2-0 victory over the Red Warriors on Wednesday evening was particularly impressive as they barely afforded their opponents a chance at goal.  Johor’s weakness at times this season has been their defence, indeed even bottom club Negeri Sembilan have conceded less league goals than the Tigers this season; with every goal so vital in a two-legged semi-final coach Fandi Ahmad will need to make sure his troops are aware of the immense threat that Pahang pose going forward.

A constant headache this season has been getting the best out of national team players Safee Sali and Safiq Rahim.  Sali in particular has disappointed so far, on Wednesday his season was summed up when he missed a fantastic headed chance, before being withdrawn by his manager with the score still at 0-0.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see both players again warming the bench here, with Jamaluddin preferred to Safiq, and Norshahrul and Nunez to start in attack.

As for the Tok Gajah, they will come into this match brimming with confidence, high from their five match unbeaten streak.  During this run they have taken points from other highly placed teams such as Selangor and league leaders Lions XII, therefore the visit of Johor is not one that should scare them.

The undoubted strength of this team lies in its attacking talent, with Azamuddin Akil, Fauzi Rozlan, R Surendran and Matias Conti all more than capable of finding the back of the net.  Conti has only featured from the bench since suffering a hamstring injury almost a month ago versus Felda, if he is not risked here then expect Abdul Malik to again start.  Defender Damion Stewart, a mid-season signing has fitted into the team seamlessly and is also a goal threat from set-pieces, he will be relishing a possible battle with Aidil Zafuan who may well be tasked with picking up the giant Jamaican whenever he ventures forward.

Another positive of the team is their never say die attitude, with points being rescued in stoppage time in the recent ties against Selangor and Lions XII.  With that being said, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a more defensive Pahang team here, ready to take the tie right until the end of 180 minutes in the return leg.

  • Johor Darul Takzim won the last game between these two teams, 1-0 thanks to a goal from Argentine Lionel Nunez in the 46th minute.
  • On the opening day of the season Pahang came from a two goal deficit to beat JDT 3-2 thanks to goals from Fauzi Rozlan (two) and R. Surendran.
  • Johor have needed penalties to get through the last two rounds before emerging victorious against Kedah and Selangor respectively.
  • Pahang knocked out JDT's neighbours, Johor FA, in the opening round by a score of 3-2.