JDT's Mohd Safee Sali (left) kicks the ball past T-Team players during their Super League match at the Larkin Stadium on April 18, 2014. JDT won 2-1. – Lim Cheng Kiat / THE STAR
LARKIN: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) continued with their winning ways in the Super League with a 2-1 triumph over T-Team at the Larkin Stadium.
Argentinian Luciano Figueroa was the hero for the Southern Tigers on Friday night when he bagged a brace in the 30th minute and deep into injury time. New T-Team signing Leandro Dos Santos had earlier struck in the 24th minute.
All the pre-match hype – focusing on the bad blood between the two club sides following the now infamous “tunnel incident” during the FA Cup second round tie on Feb 1 and crowd trouble in Ipoh last Tuesday – proved unfounded.
The visible presence of police personnel in and outside the stadium helped prevent any untoward incidents and the only action was on pitch.
The match between the two bitter rivals began with both teams wanting to prove a point. And it was JDT who came closest to opening the scoring but national striker Safee Sali fluffed two chances – in the 13th and 15th minutes.
T-Team hit back with a swift counter-attack started by Rwanda’s Jimmy Mulisa and finished off by Brazilian Santos, who coolly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Mohd Izham Tarmizi in the 24th minute.
Stunned, JDT pressed for the equaliser and Figueroa outjumped the T-Team defence to head home a cross by skipper Mohd Amri Yahyah six minutes later.
It was end-to-end stuff after that and T-Team can thank their skipper-cum-defender Mohd Marzuki Yusof for single-handedly keeping his side in the game with two saves on the line.
However, the introduction of former Argentina international Pablo Aimar in the 68th minute proved to be turning point as he provided the assist for compatriot Figueroa to head in the winner in the 92nd minute.
JDT have now won three matches in a row to collect 25 points from 14 matches. They are in second spot behind leaders Pahang on goal difference while T-Team are in ninth spot with 15 points after 14 matches.
In Kota Baru, Kelantan caretaker coach Hashim Mustapha got off to a bad start when his side went down 1-0 to Sarawak at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium.
The Red Warriors’ miserable run in the Super League continued as Australian striker Ryan Griffiths scored the winner for the East Malaysians after he pounced on a defensive error by Nigerian defender Obinne Nwaneri in the 52nd minute.
Nwaneri’s weak header was intercepted by the lurking Griffiths, who lobbed the ball past onrushing Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
On Tuesday, the Red Warriors suffered their biggest defeat of the season when they were thrashed 4-0 by Sime Darby FC at the Selayang Stadium. It was also the last game for head coach Steve Darby, whose contract was terminated immediately after the game.