JDT repeated their feat from two years ago as they lived up to their top billing from start to finish in the 2019 Malaysia Cup final. Just like it was in 2017, Kedah were the opponents and just like it was 24 hours ago, JDT displayed their superiority over The Red Eagles to win comfortably 3-0 to seal a second triumph in the competition as a club.
Leandro Velazquez put the designated away side in front at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium before further strikes from Safawi Rasid and Syafiq Ahmad sealed a comprehensive victory for The Southern Tigers. As expected, Benjamin Mora was left feeling rather proud after what his charges produced in front of the 82,420 watching crowd.
"First of all to TMJ, who gave me and us the opportunity to wear this shirt and defend this shirt in every one of the games. I feel fortunate and grateful to be part of the JDT project, and to be able to try to guide these spectacular players. We came with an expectation that we had to be humble and we had to come and respect Kedah as a very good team.
"But we want to make our own history also. I told you before that I want to finish this in 95 minutes because it is very difficult to follow more than that in the final with everything involved. The boys did a fantastic job. I cannot be anything but proud and happy to win the our third trophy of the season, and it leaves us wanting more," said Mora in the post-match press conference.
Yet there was a moment of pressure when a gamble backfired on him. Diogo Luis Santo had been nursing an injury since the last international break but did play in the semi-final second leg last week. Opted to be used from the start in the final, the big Brazilian broke down again after just 24 minutes played.
But fortunately for Mora, the players chosen to replace the star striker is one of the most in-form player in the country at the moment in Syafiq. The 24-year-old repaid his coach's faith with an immediate impact by getting involved in the move that created the opening goal on the night and capped his fine performance off with a majestic header in the second half.
"There was one time they asked me in the last game that if Diogo was not on the pitch, was it better or worse to have Syafiq? I just said it was different. Both are at a great level. Of course Diogo as a foreign player gives us a lot of intelligence, experience, good managing of the ball and of course, goals.
"But Syafiq is now one of the best strikers in Malaysia, if not the best. As a number 9, a 9 and a half, as a second striker, as a winger and behind the striker - he can do a lot of work. He's a good player and he's on fire. I was not worried that Syafiq came in but I was a bit sad because Diogo couldn't continue. It was one of the things that we knew could happen because Diogo is not 100%," explained Mora.
In a season where they have managed to hold onto their Super League title with consummate ease, the manner in which JDT won this Malaysia Cup further highlights the vast gap between them and the rest of the chasing pack. That unless they find JDT on an off-day, the result is probably written before the first whistle.
Now with a couple weeks of break, JDT are expected to resume training either in the first week or second week of December, where it all begins once again. If Mora could get his team to continue to improve, another trophy-laden year in 2020 awaits them.
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