JDT marching on relentlessly towards 6th straight title

The 2019 Malaysia Super League season is fast turning out to be a procession for JDT in their pursuit of yet another league title and a return to the AFC Champions League group stage in 2020 after earning a 2-0 win over closest rivals Pahang on Tuesday night.

It was a five points gap going into the match which ultimately turned into an eight points gap, stretching JDT's lead at the top of the table thanks to goals from Hariss Harun (69') and Akhyar Rashid (90+3'). Nine rounds of matches still left to be played but all signs are pointing firmly towards the title returning to the furthest Southern reaches of Peninsular Malaysia.

This win makes it 10 wins from 13 matches for JDT, a 77% winning percentage from the matches they have played this season. If The Southern Tigers maintains their consistency for the rest of the season, they will not have to wait until Match Day 22 to secure their sixth straight league title.

Pahang who were so impressive in the 4-0 win over Terengganu FC last Friday to seal a place in the semi-final of the FA Cup looked a very different side at Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium. Without the mercurial Dickson Nwakaeme in the team, Dollah Salleh was forced to use Jose Eduardo and Mohamadou Sumareh as the strike pairing.

Safuwan Baharudin, Johor Darul Ta'zim v Pahang, Malaysia Super League, 14 May 2019

Early yellow cards in the first half for Safuwan Baharudin and Nor Azam Azih meant that the visitors played with one hand tied behind their back in the most important position on the pitch. Both players had to rethink their tackles and challenges, which gave the likes of Hariss Harun and Leandro Velasquez the space to dominate the midfield.

Hariss put in another massive performance in the middle of the pitch, leading by example as proven when he was the one leading the breakway that led to him calmly slotting past Helmi Eliza after Akhyar found him with an accurate pass from the right.

While Sumareh looked lost in an unfamiliar central striking role, the opposite is true for Diogo Luis Santo. Pundits are fast running out of superlatives to describe the Brazilian striker and for 90 minutes, he was undoubtedly the most superior player on the pitch, attaching the meaning of danger to himself every time he got on the ball.

Muslim Ahmad and Herald Goulon tried to be physical with Diogo but the JDT striker expertly drew fouls when required and turned away from his markers in other occasions. Usually the goalscorer for the team, this match showed just what well rounded player he is, drifting wide to create space and becoming the creator of the team.

Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Johor Darul Ta'zim v Pahang, Malaysia Super League, 14 May 2019

While one forward was showing his prowess in the attack, another was showing a new light not seen previously of him. With his midfield department not working, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was forced to play deeper than he would have preferred but the evergreen forward showed he can be useful in defensive position.

Protecting his full backs, Faisal Rosli in particular, Norshahrul proved that he can be counted upon to put in the hard shift not normally associated with him. Likewise on the other flank, Faisal Halim worked overtime in defending, leaving him to do very little further forward.

PKNS (A), Kedah (H), PKNP (A), Selangor (H), Melaka (A), Perak (A), PJ City (H), Kuala Lumpur (A) and Terengganu (H) are the remaining league fixtures for JDT and it is hard to see where they will drop points. On the basis of what they have shown thus far, perhaps winning all nine matches would be too tall an order but staying unbeaten in all those matches looks more than feasible.

The consistency that JDT have shown in the 2019 season in the Super League is an incredible feat and this latest win are undeniably setting them up for the unprecedented stranglehold of the league title.


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