Safawi Rasid fired home a quality brace to power Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) into the Malaysia Cup semifinals at the expense of Pahang FA, after a 2-0 win in front of almost 20,000 fans at Larkin Stadium on Saturday.
JDT will go on to face Terengganu FA in the semifinals. The Turtles had overcame Felda United FC 6-4 on aggregate.
The Southern Tigers were on the verge of taking a slim advantage to Larkin last week, but Safuwan Baharudin’s injury-time header meant both teams came into this match tied at 1-1.
But JDT surged into a 2-1 lead on aggregate just 56 seconds into the match through a blistering counter-attack.
Pahang were left short at the back, and when Ahmad Hazwan Bakri teed up Safawi Rasid on the edge of the penalty box, the JDT forward made no mistake by stroking home into the far corner.
Stung by the early blow, the Elephants tried to force their way into this encounter.
Dollah Salleh started with Patrick Cruz and Austin Amutu upfront, and the Nigerian forward saw more of the ball.
But Amutu’s movement was laboured, and the JDT defence were not really troubled.
Hazwan on the other hand, looked hungry to run at the Pahang defenders at any given chance and he saw a powerful shot rattle off Helmi Eliza’s crossbar in the 10th minute.
Gonzalo Cabrera was the other threat on the left wing, and the Argentine forced a save from Helmi as JDT looked to double their lead.
The game was turning physical, with Safuwan and Safawi both cautioned by the official for a foul and retaliation respectively.
Amutu’s heavy challenge on Marcos Antonio was also left unheeded, and so was Corbin-Ong’s barge into Mohamadou Sumareh.
Pahang needed to find a moment of brilliance in the second half to force the issue, but none of their players seem capable of changing the game.
Cabrera again tested Helmi with a shot midway through the second half, as the Southern Tigers looked happy to close out the match with this slim advantage.
But Safawi had other ideas, and effectively sent Pahang packing with a deft finish in the 73rd minute.
It was another quality goal from the young forward, who rounded Helmi after taking Fernando Elizari’s through pass to slide into the empty net.
The Elephants would need three goals in less than 20 minutes to go through, and they never looked like breaching JDT’s goal until the final whistle.
So, after a slow start in the competition, the defending champions go deservedly marching into the semifinals.
Sabah joined JDT in the semifinals after edging Kelantan 1-0 to qualify on away goals after both sides were tied on a 2-2 aggregate.
Photo Credit: Johor DT