PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) skipper Mohd Safiq Rahim reckons his side were worthy winners after they successfully retained their Super League crown.
The Southern Tigers were beaten 2-1 by Felda United in their final Super League match at the Selayang Stadium on Saturday but second-placed Pahang failed to take advantage as they suffered a 3-1 loss to Terengganu.
JDT ended up winning the title with 46 points from 22 matches, just two ahead of arch-rivals Pahang to clinch the RM750,000 prize money.
The 28-year-old Safiq said the hard-earned title was due to sheer hard work.
“Although the match result didn’t go our way, we still managed to defend the league crown,” said a jubilant Safiq after the match.
“I don’t think Pahang’s slip-up enabled us to retain the league. We are deserving winners. If we had not worked hard in the early stages of the league, we would have not been in this position at the end of the season.
“We have little time to celebrate now. We have another important match coming up and we need to get ready for it.”
JDT will now shift their focus to the AFC Cup quarter-finals against Hong Kong’s South China at the Larkin Stadium on Tuesday.
In Saturday’s match, JDT surprisingly trailed 2-0 after only seven minutes.
Felda went ahead with defender Shahrul Saad scoring a header in the fourth minute.
Three minutes later, striker Indra Putra Mahayuddin slotted in a penalty to double their lead. The spot kick was given after defender Junior Eldstal was sent off for bringing down Felda’s Ndumba Makeche.
Argentine striker Luciano Figueroa converted a spot kick in the 32nd minute for JDT’s consolation goal.
Pahang skipper Razman Roslan was left to rue their luck in failing to win the title.
“We were just unlucky, but we can take consolation that we finished runners-up. Of course, we are disappointed. But in football anything can happen,” said a dejected Razman.
“We have to forget about missing the title. We now have to focus on our upcoming AFC Cup match.”
The Elephants will take on FC Istiklol of Tajikistan in the quarter-finals at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe on Wednesday.
SUPER LEAGUE ROLL OF HONOUR
Champions: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).
Golden Boot: Dramane Traore (Pol) – 16 goals.
Relegated to 2016 Premier League: Sime Darby and Armed Forces.
Promoted to the 2016 Super League: Kedah and Penang.