Felda United took full advantage of Johor Darul Ta'zim's (JDT) defensive mistakes to grab a hard-earned 3-2 win at the rearrranged match at Shah Alam Stadium on Thursday. The Fighters came out victorious despite twice being pegged back the reigning Super League champions.
B. Sathianathan was forced to put in Nor Fazly Alias for the suspended Dino Ljulbic but otherwise kept the same starting XI that won against PNKP at the weekend. Meanwhile Ulisses Morais restored his usual starting line-up for this match with the likes of Safiq Rahim, Gonzalo Cabrera and Gabriel Guerra all starting.
The home side were the first to threaten when Thiago Augusto put Safwan Hashim through in the 8th minute of the match but the Felda right back scuffs his shot wide despite being unguarded inside the opponent's penalty box.
JDT also had their chances as Ignacio 'Kiko' Insa and Safiq began to assume some form of control in midfield. However their attacks would be let down by some wayward finishing from the forwards.
Both teams were sloppy in possession and control, especially in the final third of the pitch, which led to very little goal mouth action.
That changed dramatically in the 27th minute when suddenly Felda found themselves ahead in the match. From a safe position, Junior Eldstal somehow sold Haziq Nadzli short with a back pass that was easily intercepted by Thiago. The Brazilian rounded Haziq before slotting into an empty net.
The goal opened up the game and JDT could have equalised just five minutes later but Insa saw his header hit the side netting instead of the back of the goal, from a Safiq corner kick. Felda's failure to heed the warning would come back to bite them in the 39th minute.
From another corner kic, Safiq's delivery was once again good, right into the centre of the box. This time, Eldstal atoned for his earlier mistake by storming in to head past Farizal Harun in Felda's goal to make it 1-1.
Then Safiq saw his free kick hit the cross bar as JDT looked to have wrested control of the match. However, right before the end of the first half, the advantage would swung the way of Felda once again.
In added time at the end of the first half, Thiago and Ifedayo Olusegun had swapped positions. Thiago received the ball out wide on the right and managed to beat Fazly Mazlan for pace before picking the right low cross for Olusegen to sweep past Haziq for Felda to lead 2-1 at half time.
The start of the second half was a mixed bag of emotions for the Southern Tigers. First they suffered in the 47th minute when Eldstal was shown a red card for collecting his second yellow card of the night. A heavy challenge on Wan Zack ended his night on a low.
However, JDT would draw level in the 57th minute despite being a man down. Cabrera was allowed time and space outside the box to pick his spot and the Argentine didn't disappoint with a long range shot that beat Farizal to make it 2-2.
Despite being pulled level, Felda continue to make advances in the opposition half. Olusegun had a shot cleared by off the line by Fadhli Shas but the Fighters would not be denied minutes later. Afiq Fazail who was pushed back into defence after the Eldstal's sending off, failed to deal with Thiago's run and the latter calmly slotted past Haziq for Felda to take the lead again.
That was to be Afiq's last involvement in the match as Morais brought Aidil Zafuan on to replace him. While JDT had a man less, they still dominated proceedings and Safiq came close to finding the equaliser. For the second time in the match, his shot from distance landed on the frame of the goal.
There were a couple of headers late on, particularly from Aidil but nothing that could trouble Farizal and Felda would go on to claim their first win over JDT in five matches.