Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) survived a first half onslaught from Perak in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup semi-final encounter in Ipoh to come away with a vital 1-1 draw. The away goal scored put them in a good stead heading into the second leg in Johor Bahru.
Ulissess Morais made the brave decision of swapping Fazly Mazlan for Hasbullah Abu Bakar for this crucial match and one which ultimately proved to be the wrong decision. Hasbullah had already escaped an early caution when he clumsily clattered into Nasir Basharuddin but greater disaster would struck for the youngster towards the middle of the first half.
In trying to clear the ball away from Zaquan Adha, with the Perak forward driving towards goal, the young full back's attempted back pass caught an on-rushing Izham Tarmizi off guard and the ball rolled into an empty net, to give Perak a 1-0 lead.
However, the head coach from Portugual refused to blame Hasbullah for his mistake nor lament him for what was an insipid performance at left back. Morais went on to explain that the decision to put Fazly on after half time was purely from a tactical standpoint.
"Bul play like the others. We didn't take him out because he scored the own goal. But because we were losing and we needed to change to get back into the game. So we need another player with greater attacking threat. Bul is great professional and fantastic player like everyone else. We don't think he's nervous," said Morais after the match on Sunday.
JDT came back out in the second half the much stronger side and were finally rewarded late on when Mohammed Ghaddar punished Shahrom Kalam's mistake to sweep home the equaliser. One which they justly deserved after controlling the better part of the second half as Perak faded.
"We are not 100% satisfied with the result. We were unlucky when Perak scored because we were controlling the game. But it's a difficult game and they are strong when they play at home. Over the 90 minutes, we had more chances to score than Perak. It's okay, it's a good result to take to the second leg," added Morais.
The return leg will take place on Saturday 21 October, and JDT holds a distinct advantage with not only the away goal but the fact that Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium being an inpenetrable fortress, from a domestic fixture perspective.