Johor Darul Ta’zim were crowned champions of the 2017 Malaysia Cup on Saturday after claiming a 2-0 victory over Kedah at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Aidil Zafuan got Harimau Selatan on their way with a third-minute header, before Gonzalo Cabrera added a second shortly after the hour mark to make sure of the triumph.
The victory means JDT have finally ended their wait to win Malaysian football’s most-prestigious trophy, with the Malaysia Cup the one piece of silverware that had eluded them since they began their dominance in 2014.
Yet, while Saturday’s win proved to be fairly straightforward, they would have been expecting sterner resistance against a Kedah outfit that had promised to give them a real run for their money.
However, JDT could not have asked for a better start as Aidil handed them the lead with less than three minutes on the clock, losing his marker to meet a Safiq Rahim corner with a firm header into the back of the net.
Buoyed by going in front so early, Ulisses Morais’ charges started to grow in confidence and were threatening with almost every venture forward.
Gabriel Guerra was denied by an outstanding point-blank range save from Ifwat Ikmal, while Natxo Insa could only fire wide after finding himself in a couple of good openings.
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Kedah did come out for the second half looking a side determined to get back in the contest and were unlucky not to equalise in the 56th minute.
Having seen his initial cross blocked, Syazwan Zainon floated a follow-up delivery to the back post to find an unmarked Baddrol Bakhtiar, only for him to send his header crashing into the bar.
And, in the 63rd minute, that missed proved crucial as Cabrera popped up to score his side’s second.
Having caused the Kedah defence problems all evening long, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri’s attempted pass took a wicked deflection and looped up dangerously into the area.
There still appeared to be little danger but Cabrera – the sole JDT player in the box – slid in ahead of Rizal Ghazali to fire away a volley that Ifwat got a hand to but just could not stop it from going in off the post.
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There was still time for Hijau-Kuning to get back into the contest and, if luck had been on their side five minutes later, things could have been different.
But Baddrol, for so long the inspirational talisman of this side, again could only fire into the woodwork after being picked out by Sandro’s slide-rule pass.
With that, Kedah’s hopes of a comeback were all but ended, as Harimau Selatan went on to claim a memorable first Malaysia Cup title.
KEDAH: Ifwat Ikmal, Rizal Ghazali, Zac Anderson, Khairul Helmi, Ariff Farhan, Liridon Krasniqi, Amirul Hisyam, Baddrol Bakhtiar (Farhan Roslan 78’), Sandro (Akram Mahinan 83’), Syazwan Zainon (Fitri Omar 81’), Ken Ilso.
JOHOR DARUL TA’ZIM: Izham Tarmizi, S. Kunanlan, Aidil Zafuan (Junior Eldstal 60’), Fadhli Shas, Fazly Mazlan (Azrif Nashrulhaq 85’), Natxo Insa, Gary Robbat (Afiq Fazail 57’), Safiq Rahim, Gabriel Guerra, Gonzalo Cabrera, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri.
Photo credit: Johor Darul Ta’zim FC