PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim have proven to be the untouchables in the Super League – and now they want to be the best in the region.
The team led by Mexican coach Benjamin Mora sealed their seventh consecutive title, in a season that has been shortened to just 11 matches due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, with an awe-inspiring 4-1 win against Sabah at their new stadium, the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri, on Friday.
The Southern Tigers first goal came in the 38th minute when Diogo Santo finished a brilliant play between La’Vere Corbin Ong and Afiq Fazail.
Safawi Rasid continued his strong presence in the team when he netted the second goal in the 56th minute after receiving a through pass from substitute Nazmi Faiz Mansor and unleashing a vicious left-footed shot from 20 metres.
Sabah refused to give in and reduced the deficit when Thai-German striker Dennis Buschening curled a left-footed shot into goal inside JDT’s box in the 74th minute
However, seven minutes later, JDT killed the game when the 19-year-old Ramadhan Saifullah capitalised on a mistake by Sabah’s captain Rawilson Batuil and passed it to Safawi, who scored his second goal in the game and seventh in the season.
Leandro Velasquez made it even more impressive when he scored through a freekick in the 84th minute.
Mora said ending their last home game with the league title spoke of the players mental toughness, authority in the game and dignity.
“The logo (of the team) we carry is very, very heavy. It was not easy because Sabah came only to defend and look for counter-attacks, ” said Mora.
“We could not break the lines. The players wanted to perform so much, and when Diogo got the first goal, then everything fell into place.
“This seventh consecutive title is emotional. First, Safawi will be leaving the club for Europe. We also played games without the fans because of the pandemic.
JDT will be without Safawi next season as he flew to Portugal yesterday. He will play for Portuguese Primeira Liga side Portimonense.
“Players and coaches come and go, but the fans are there all the time. We really miss their presence.
“Every team in the league wants to win, but only one can. I am privileged to be part of this squad. This victory should not be about me. The players and TMJ (JDT owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim) should be earning the plaudits.
Mora said it was time to raise the bar and look for success beyond Malaysia.
“Since 2013, JDT have been growing fast. Look at what TMJ has done. He has built an empire and culture of winning. We hope to continue growing and be the best in the region soon.”
JDT have been dominating the league since 2014, and this season, they have remained unbeaten.
With one game left, they top the table with 26 points. They are nine points ahead of second-placed Perak in the standings.