BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Johor Darul Taz'im (JDT) is fast turning out to be Karl-Heinz Weigang's favourite opponent in Ipoh as his Perak side became the first Super League team in 2017 to inflict a defeat on the Southern Tigers. The Bos Gaurus won 2-1 at Stadium Perak in a performance that was completely the opposite of the one they produced in their last league match.
Weigang made 5 changes to the side that beat PBMS on Wednesday with only Thiago Aquino, Vladislav Mirchev, Faton Toski, Amirul Azhan, Hafiz Kamal and Zaquan Adha retained. Toski who impressed in midweek, was given a chance in midfield alongside the returning Nasir Basharuddin. As for JDT, Benjamin Mora was able to welcome the return of Aidil Zafuan in the heart of defence while giving Gabriel Guerra another start in the infancy of his JDT career.
It was Perak who landed the first punch and it came as early as the 7th minute. Toski delivered a sumptuous touch to clip the ball over the head of S. Kunanlan just perfect for Yashir Pinto to receive behind the right back. The Paletisnian forward produced a deft touch to control the ball before beating Farizal Marlias from the tightest of angles to make it 1-0 to Perak. It was the start that Perak needed on what was a heavy pitch after downpour earlier in the evening.
However the euphoria of taking the lead had barely died down before JDT got themselves back on level pegging. Only 180 seconds had elapsed when the Southern Tigers made it 1-1 through Hazwan Bakri. The national forward benefiting from lapse in concentration from Perak's defence to tap-in Guerra's square ball as the home defence failed to readjust accordingly following an Amirulhadi Zainal deflected shot.
Somehow the two early goals made both teams adopt a more cautious approach and the electric, fast-paced start was replaced with slower build-up as neither teams want to be the next to concede. It didn't help the visitors' cause when Azamuddin Akil had to be taken off as early as the 21st minute due to hamstring trouble with Gonzalo Cabrera coming on for him.
It wasn't until the 2nd minute of added time in the first half that an attempt at goal was created. From a quick counter attack, Perak broke through Mirchev who found the on-rushing Pinto with a wonderful curling cross from the right. Pinto managed to get ahead of Aidil to flick the ball towards goal. Unfortunately for the home fans, the ball only struck the bottom post despite Farizal being well and clearly beaten.
There was also a lull in the opening period of the second half before an unlikely defensive introduction for the home side, sparked the game into life again. Shahrul Saad come on for the inventive Toski in the 50th minute and seemed to change the tempo of the match with his high-energy pressing. Shahrul's impact was almost immediate when he latched on to a square pass to strike a strong shot from outside the box that Farizal had to dive to his left to make a smart save.
Seeing that his team are losing their grip on the match, Mora introduced Mahali Jasuli for Brian Fereira in the 58th minute, hoping to released Safiq Rahim further forward. However, JDT were struggling to keep hold of possession and with every passing minute, Safiq had to drop deeper and deeper to give Amirulhadi the help he needed in central midfield.
Then in the 75th minute, it was the turn of the home fans to roar again. Nasir was unceremoniously clattered by Amirulhadi right at the edge of the penalty box and the referee did not hesitate to blow for the foul. Thiago stepped-up to strike it from distance and his low shot was on target and require the intervention of Farizal. Unfortunately for the JDT keeper, he could only palm it onto the path of Pinto. Farizal was able to make another save but the second rebound fell to Mirchev who couldn't miss from an open goal.
Perak defended very well for the rest of the second half as they continually kept the likes of Guerra, Cabrera and Hazwan at bay. The best opportunity that JDT created to find the equaliser came only in injury time. Mahali was left unmarked inside the penalty box but he rushed his shot and went for power instead of accuracy. Hafizul Hakim was relieved to see the shot flashed wide and he still did not had a save to make since conceding the goal to Hazwan in the first half.
On a night where Zaquan Adha played his elder twin brother in Aidil Zafuan, it was the younger brother who will hold the bragging rights in the family as Perak emerged 2-1 winners over Johor Darul Ta'zim.