Hariss Harun’s first-half strike proved enough for Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) to edge 10-man Pahang FA 1-0 and take a 11-point lead in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) on Friday.
The other match saw Kedah FA beat 10-man Kelantan FA by the same score to avenge their defeat on Tuesday.
At Larkin Stadium, the first half belonged entirely to JDT, who had a new look to their midfield with Fernando Elizari and Gary Steven Robbat starting.
After dominating early possession, the Southern Tigers went ahead through their Singapore midfielder Hariss, whose grounder squeezed in despite Helmi Eliza’s quick thinking to smother the shot.
JDT continued to pour forward to add to their advantage, despite Pahang paying them close attention with man-to-man marking.
Hariss almost got his second midway through the first half, but Helmi was equal to his effort to palm the danger to safety.
Elizari was a thorn in the Pahang side with his vision and constant movement.
The Argentine’s sumptuous through pass should have been converted by Safawi Rasid, but the forward fluffed his lines and poked wide from close range.
JDT had two great chances to increase their chances after the break, but Marquez couldn’t find a way past Eliza despite having only the keeper to beat.
A minute later, Gonzalo Cabrera took advantage of a Pahang mix-up, but shot wide with the goal gaping.
Pahang’s chances of getting a result was dealt a severe blow after Safuwan Baharudin was sent off in the 70th minute, when he earned a second caution for a clumsy tackle on Gary.
Corbin Ong should have been sent off as well immediately after that incident.
The JDT full-back stamped on Mohamadou Sumareh, but he was only given a caution by the referee.
JDT went on to see out the game and notch their 11th victory of the season, to go 11 points clear with eight games remaining.
The other match saw Kedah end their two game losing streak, thanks to Paulo Rangel’s first-half injury time winner.
Rangel has now scored two goals against Kelantan in the span of four days.
While the result bumps the Red Eagles to fourth, Kelantan’s future in top flight takes another big hit.
The Red Warriors have now lost 10 out of 15 matches, and time is fast running out for this troubled east coast state side.
Photo credit: Johor Southern Tigers Facebook