Just Don’t Tremble

All smiles: Johor Darul Ta’zim’s Arif Aiman celebrating after scoring the winner against Kuching City during the Malaysia Cup match at the Larkin Stadium. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Defending Malaysia Cup champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) survived a scare in their first-round match.

The six-time Super League champions had to slog hard in their 1-0 win over minnows Kuching City at the Larkin Stadium on Friday.

Their winning goal was scored by 18-year-old Arif Aiman in the 19th minute and they will now take on another Premier League side Kuala Lumpur in the quarter-finals.

Coach Benjamin Mora was left unimpressed by his players’ performance.

“I can’t remember the number of opportunities we had in the game. The most important thing in football is to score. If you cannot score goals, you do not win matches. Simple.

“We’ve been scoring a lot in the last few games, but in this game, we couldn’t, but fortunately we got the win, ” said the Mexican.

“This is football, sometimes this happens. The team ran, fought and tried.

“We attacked with two flanks, in the hole, inside the lines, we created a lot of options to score more.

“Our missed chances made our opponents stronger. It doesn’t mean we were weak; it’s just that it has become challenging.

“We cannot be a super team all the time. We are a good team, but we have our moments.

“Kuching fought, we knew they would challenge us. The same would happen against KL. It will be the same throughout the Cup.”

However, Mora was full of praise for his young goal scorer.

“Arif is a kid. He is talented but form-wise, I expect him to be unstable, which is a normal thing for any boy who is making his professional bow.

“Sometimes, he will be good, sometimes, he will be bad. But as a coach, I do not care about all that because I know he has the potential to grow.”

Meanwhile, Penang, the Premier League champions, had an easier outing when they thumped Super League side Felda United 3-1 at the City Stadium in Georgetown.

The Panthers’ goals were scored by Casagrande (37th), Amir Azahar (62nd) and Lee Chang-joon (76th) while Nicolas Velez scored the Fighters’ solitary goal in the 49th minute.

Penang coach Manzoor Azwira said this is the first time after 14 years that they have qualified for the quarter-finals.

“We last played in that stage in 2006. To me, it’s a good achievement and it happened because our boys were strong and determined to progress further.”

Penang will face either UiTM or Kelantan in the quarter-finals next week.

“If you ask me, both teams will be a tough opposition for us. Kelantan have strong team spirit and can conjure something unexpected during matches. As for UiTM, they have been very consistent in the Super League. So both sides will be a challenge, that’s for sure.”

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