Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) were crowned the 2017 Malaysia Cup champions after defeating Kedah in the final at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday night. The Southern Tigers were clearly the better side in the first half but rode their luck a bit in the second half, ultimately prevailed with a 2-0 win to end Kedah's reign as champions.
As expected, Nidzam Adha paraded his usual stars in the starting line-up with the exception that Ariff Farhan was selected ahead of Fitri Omar, who has been Kedah's nominal left back for most of the season. Suprises were thrown up from the JDT end as Ulisses Morais gave starts to Aidil Zafuan and Hazwan Bakri, with Junior Eldstal and Mohammed Ghaddar dropping to the bench.
But that decision was to be vindicated almost immediately as JDT took the lead in the match after just three minutes played. Gary Steven Robbat's shot was deflected out for a corner kick and Safiq Rahim's perfect in-swinging delivery was perfect for Aidil to head home the opening goal of the match.
That goal stung Kedah and they had trouble coming back into the game with JDT having most of the possession and looking threatening in their attacks. Twice they could have extended their lead but Ignacio 'Natxo' Insa's shot in the 21st minute was just wide while a minute later, Ifwat Akmal produced an outstanding stop to deny Gabriel Guerra.
The first chance that Kedah managed to create was when a through ball was played in the path of Ken Ilso. The Danish striker got to the ball ahead of the on-rushing Izham Tarmizi but had to watch the ball go agonisingly wide.
The match became much more even as the half went on but the spectacle of the final was ruined by the stop-start nature of the match. Fouls after fouls were committed from both teams and neither teams could build any momentum in the match.
At the start of the second half, Kedah had two penalty calls involving Ilso turned down as they started the half looking to regain parity with JDT. Kedah went close to getting the equaliser in the 56th minute when Syazwan Zainon's cross from the left hand side found Baddrol Bakhtiar. But to their frustration, Izham managed to tip Baddrol's header onto the bar.
Having struggled after the restart, JDT were forced to make two changes as Gary Steven and Aidil picked up injuries, even though the latter seemed to be remonstrating with the bench questioning why he was taken off. Afiq Fazail and Junior were the ones introduced to the fray and that coincided with JDT extending their lead.
In the 63rd minute, Hazwan received the ball at the edge of the penalty box, his attempted shot hit a Kedah player and deflected nicely onto the path of Cabrera, who chose accuracy over power with his shot, that Ifwat couldn't keep out.
Kedah could have reduced the gap just two minutes later when another cross from the left hand side found Baddrol. This time Izham was caught out but JDT survived when Baddrol's shot only crashed against the post.
With time fast closing in, Nidzam had to push to find their way back into the game and opted to take off both Baddrol and Syazwan with Farhan Roslan and Fitri coming on in their stead. That would soon be followed by a questionable decision to take off Sandro da Silva with Akram Mahinan coming in, at a time when they were chasing the game.
Ultimately, a goal in each half of the match were enough to gain JDT their second trophy in the season. After successfully retaining their Super League title, JDT have now added the Malaysia Cup to their collection, a first in their short history since being rebranded as a club side.