The Johor Darul Ta'zim train towards another Malaysia Super League title is looking unstoppable after their latest win, a 2-0 victory of closest rivals Pahang on Tuesday night. The win increased the lead at the top from five points to eight points with only nine more rounds of matches remaining.
Pahang provided a strong fight, at least in defence where they repeatedly keep out JDT for large parts of the match. But the reigning league champions eventually found the breakthrough with half an hour left to play when captain Hariss Harun started and finished a brilliant counter attacking move.
Akhyar Rashid's late goal in added time was the icing on the cake but in truth, it was a game which JDT dominated and showed that they are still the kings of the Super League. For Luciano Figueroa, the win was well deserved and it sets his team towards another title success.
"It was a very tough game because it is a derby. You have to win a derby and we did, so we're very happy. We are in a good way, the players are doing a great job and we're eight points clear. For us he's (Diogo) very important. Even if he doesn't score, it is still important how he play and how he hold the ball. He understands football and he helped the team a lot.
"Afiq (Fazail) for me is the best midfielder in Malaysia. I told you 2-3 games ago that he's very important for us. We don't have Natxo (Insa) and he go in and is doing a fantastic job," said Figueroa in the post-match press conference.
Centre forward Diogo Luis Santo was outstanding despite not getting on the scoresheet. The big Brazilian worked his socks off throughout the 90 minutes, constantly offering himself up for a pass and kept making the right decisions whether to hold or to release the ball to his team mates.
Another player who does not grab the same limelight as Diogo but is increasingly becoming vital for the team is midfielder Afiq. The 24-year-old had big shoes to fill in the absence of Ignacio Insa but is consistently producing the expected output game in game out. The metronome centre midfielder does not do things the fancy way but his positioning and ability to recycle possession is what keeps JDT ticking.
JDT will next travel to Selangor to face PKNS FC on Friday looking to at least maintain their lead at the top. But the task will not be a simple one despite PKNS only collecting less than half the points JDT have ammassed thus far considering that The Red Ants are ones which knocked JDT out of the FA Cup in recent weeks.
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