Pahang blew a chance to move within two points of Johor Darul Ta'zim in the Super League standings after they crashed to 2-0 defeat at Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium on Match Day 13. The result meant that The Elephants have a mammoth task now of narrowing a massive 8-point gap if they are to win the 2019 title.
Having comfortably held JDT for large parts of the match, the momentary lapse in concentration gave the opening goal to the home side. Pahang pushed far too many men forward for a corner kick and were left cruelly exposed at the back as JDT broke for Hariss Harun to score the first goal of the match.
From then on it was an uphill battle for Dollah Salleh's boys to come back into the game. Without the presence of Nwakaeme in attack and with Ze Love in dire form, Pahang looked blunt in attack and never really troubled Farizal Marlias bar two second half chances.
"We didn't come here to play for a draw. Just that today we weren't disciplined enough in our defending. We gave JDT too much space, for crossing and shooting. Our strikers had no time to even turn but we made it easy for their attackers.
"Second half we tried to come back but it wasn't enough. Our attack wasn't working and we really felt the absence of Nwakaeme because he's able to hold the ball to wait for others to support," said Dollah in the post-match press conference.
Another turning point in the match was a first half yellow card awarded to Safuwan Baharudin. The Singaporean had competed well up to that point but the risk of a second yellow card meant that he had to be extra careful in his challenges and that in turn, opened up more opportunities for JDT to operate in the middle.
Lacking viable options from the bench, Dollah was left without a choice but to let Safuwan remained on the pitch despite his dwindling contribution to the match. On hindsight, the former Malaysia national team head coach might have opted for a different option.
"I was surprised at how early the yellow card was given but that is football. After that he was under pressure with his tackling and we became very loose in the middle. And when we give a team like JDT space in the middle, we expect to get punished and we did," added Dollah.
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