It was a procession for Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) in the second leg of the Malaysia Cup quarterfinal clash against Melaka United on Sunday night. The Southern Tigers kept the visitors at bay, the 1-1 result enabling the Super League champions to advance to the semi-final with a 5-2 aggregate score.
Ulisses Morais made eight changes to the team that beat Kelantan earlier in the week with S. Kunanlan, Junior Eldstal and Natxo Insa being the only three players that made their second start in just five days.
Nazmi Faiz broke the deadlock in the 21st minute but Melaka would equalised just before half time after Kunanlan was judged to have handled the ball inside the penalty box. Felipe de Souza converted the ensuing spot kick but that proved to be the final change in the scoreline for the rest of the match.
"Regarding the match against Melaka, what I could see was that we dominated the whole game. I don't deny that JDT had a lot of opportunities to score but the Melaka goalkeeper did very well. This is football, what's important is that the objective was achieved, which was to win the tie and reach the semi-finals."
"All the players carried out their respective duties well throughout the 90 minutes. The players did their best and from what I could see in the first half, everything went well. Meanwhile, the introductions of Cabrera and Gabriel in the second half improved our match control," said Morais in the post-match press conference.
Winning the overall tie meant that JDT will now face Perak in the semi-final stage, the latter surpassing all expectations to overcome Pahang in their own quarterfinal match-up. In the two matches this season when JDT played Perak, each side has won their respective home matches against each other.
However, Morais doesn't want his players to think about that fixture just quite yet, preferring to concentrate on the upcoming Super League encounter against another fellow semi-finalist in Felda United on the coming Wednesday.
That match against Felda will be followed by an international break where Malaysia will face North Korea and Hong Kong in the Asian Cup qualifiers.
"Currently we want to focus on the match against Felda. Then we will have 15 days to prepare for the semi-finals against Perak. We are aware that the semi-finals will be like a final especially with Perak's strengths. Of course we will do our best because we want to win the Malaysia Cup."
"For the match against Felda, we will field the strongest line-up because JDT have many quality players. I will also choose the players based on their fitness levels. As I have said before, we will definitely play our strongest line-up for any matches," added Morais.