Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) secured an unprecedented fourth consecutive Super League title on Saturday despite a 1-2 defeat to Selangor at Selayang Stadium. The Southern Tigers landed their first league title in 2014 and have not looked back since.
Ulisses Morais came in at the halfway mark of the season but in his short time with the club, has managed to guide the team to ensure that the title stays in Johor for at least another year. In a difficult match for JDT where they never truly got out of first gear, Morais paid tribute to the manner in which Selangor played.
"We know the pitch today was not good for both teams but it was more difficult for us. We committed some mistakes particularly in the second half. If Selangor play like that every week, maybe they fight with us for the title. After the injury to Marcos Antonio, we only have 3 central defenders. But today after the game, Fadhli will need some evaluation on his condition," said Morais at the post-match press conference.
At the 55th minute mark, Morais took out Afiq Fazail for Junior Eldstal in an attempt to wrest control of the match back from Selangor but it was a move that backfired. There seemed to be confusion with Eldstal as well as the rest of the team as to which position he's being slotted in.
It was a period of confusion which Selangor took full advantage of, with Andik Vermansah (a substitute himself) showing better comprehension of what was required from him to score the winning goal for the Red Giants.
"It's true [there was confusion]. He cannot follow the instruction and it was difficult for us that 10 - 12 minutes. Selangor got their goal during that time. But that's football, it means we need to work more on those kind of situations," Morais explained.
Yet, while the battle was lost, result in Kuantan meant that JDT has won the war - this with three games still left to be played in the league. A fantastic achievement for any team to win one, let alone four in a row.
Morais was undoubtedly delighted with the outcome and wasn't going to let the defeat on the night to spoil the party. The Portuguese is happy to be presented with the opportunity to lead the team and says that the title is for everyone associated with the club.
"I'm very happy. It was a good match against a good Selangor. It was not a victory for us but we are champions. It was very important for the players, the fans, the staffs and for me.
The principal objective for the club is for the title."
"We would have liked to win this game but it was not possible. But we still get the title. For everyone who have a relationship with the club, it is for them.
"I'm very happy to be given the chance by TMJ to coach JDT. Here many players and people who have good ideas and have done good work. We appreciate all the work of the people in the club to have helped us.
"When we come here, it wasn't a good moment but everybody helped us through. And we are champions before the last 3 games is played. It is not easy. The fans are also very important to us. Like tonight [Saturday] it feels like playing at home. This is for them," added Morais.
It remains to be seen if any team could catch up to JDT next season, or even offer them a stiffer title challenge. 11 points gap from first to second is no small feat. JDT have been the most consistent team in the league yet again and thus deserving winners.