PETALING JAYA: Pahang will have a tough time living up to the tag of being Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) bogey team when the Malaysia football season kicks off with the Super League-cum-Charity Shield match between the two sides next week.
Fancied JDT came out second best to double winners Pahang last season.
Pahang beat Felda United 2-1 to win the FA Cup and edged JDT (5-3 in a penalty shootout, aet 2-2) in the Malaysia Cup final. Pahang’s five encounters against JDT in all competitions ended with three wins and two draws.
Pahang head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan admitted that it would be a tall order for his team to repeat the feat.
“It’s not going to be easy to maintain the record because everyone knows JDT are one of the strongest sides in the competition,” said Zainal.
The task is made even harder as the Southern Tigers will host the opening game at the Larkin Stadium on Jan 31.
“We did not lose to JDT in five matches last season, but the matches at Larkin have always been close affairs. We drew on both occasions at Larkin. This speaks volume of their strength,” said Zainal.
In the FA Cup competition, Pahang edged JDT 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals. They drew the away-leg 1-1 and won 1-0 at home. In the Super League, Pahang won 3-2 at home and drew the away match 2-2. Pahang came out tops in their Malaysia Cup showdown.
Zainal said the situation would be different this time because of the change in the competition format, which allows teams to field all four foreign players.
“I’m sure every team will take full advantage of this new ruling and field their best players. There’s no doubt that the foreign players make a huge difference with their input and quality,” he said.
Pahang have retained all four foreigners – strikers Matias Conti (Argentina) and Dickson Nwakaeme (Nigeria) and defenders Damion Stewart (Jamaica) and Zesh Rehman (Pakistan).
JDT have also kept their foreign legion – strikers Luciano Figueroa and Jorge Pereyra Diaz (both Argentina) and defenders Antonio Santos (Brazil) and Hariss Harun (Singapore).