JOHOR bagged maximum points in their opening second round Group B President Cup soccer match with a convincing 3-0 first leg victory at the Darulaman Stadium in Alor Setar, Kedah.
The visitors scored through Shafiq Shaharuddin (30th minute), Mohd Hasbullah (55th minute) and Ramzi Haziq (78th minute) from the penalty spot.
This is Johor’s second straight win against Kedah after their thumping 6-2 win on June 27 at the UUM mini-stadium during the preliminary round.
Kedah started on the wrong footing when striker Mohd Rafizol was booked in the very first minute for a foul on Johor’s Shahrul Nizam.
The booking did not prevent Kedah from seizing the upper hand for the first twenty minutes.
They mounted a series of well-carved out attacks but the lack of accuracy which had been Kedah’s woes throughout the season reared its ugly head again as all their attempts were either off target or saved by the alert Mohd Syafizullah in the Johor goal.
Kedah kept a tight hold on the game and moved in unison towards the Johor goal to set up chances but Mohd Azryl Reza, Shameer Azreen, Abdul Halim Saari, Adam Aidil and Nashrul Shazrin just could not find the breakthrough.
They paid dearly for their misses when Johor swung into a lightning attack to catch the Kedah’s defence in disarray.
Johor skipper Fazly Mazlan set up the move with a long pass to Syazwan Shaharuddin on the right who sprinted more than 30m down the right flank before laying a pass to his sibling Syafiq to score the opening goal.
Disappointment was written all over the faces of the Kedah players but urged on by a small group of fans, they picked themselves up to launch a number of raids.
Adam Aidil saw his close range shot being blocked by Johor goalkeeper Mohd Syafizullah twice in succession in the 36th minute and Mohd Rafizol had another chance in the 38th minute when he was put through by Asnan Ahmad but his weak attempt was easily saved by the Johor goalkeeper.
Kedah were handicapped in the second half when they played with ten players in the last 37 minutes when Mohd Rafizol was given the marching orders by referee by Wan Mohd Tarmizi in the 52nd minute for a second yellow card. Before the 10-man Kedah could get themselves re-organised, Johor deliver- ed the killer blow in the 55th minute.
Johor worked their way into the penalty area through the left flank and Johor striker Mohd Hasbullah had the simplest task of scoring his team’s second goal from close range.
Desperate to get back into the match, Kedah pushed forward in numbers but paid dearly for leaving acres of space for their opponents to exploit.
Once again it was Johor’s counter attack which caused the damage.
Naim Nazmi swung a cross from the left into an open area to find striker Ramzi Haziq. Before the striker could get the ball under control, Kedah custodian Ifwat Akmal missed his tackle on Ramzi and instead brought him down inside the penalty area.
Ramzi picked himself up to beat the Kedah keeper from the penalty spot to make the score 3-0.
With the Kedah players working extra hard to get back into the game, four Johor players were booked in succession for overzealous tackles between the 81st minute and 90th minutes.
The first was their skipper Fazly Mazlan (81st minute) followed by Mohd Taufiq (85th minute), Shahrul Nizam (87th minute) and Amirul Akmal (90th minute).
Kedah will take on Pahang in another Group B first leg away match on August 22 in Kuantan. During the preliminary round two-leg encounter, Kedah had beaten Pahang 1-0 away but drawn 2-all at home.
Terengganu is the other team making up Group B with whom Kedah had drawn both preliminary round matches.