PETALING JAYA: All Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) coach Esteban Solari wanted from his team was a response, and he got it.
After being thrashed by Kawasaki Frontale 0-5 in the AFC Champions League last week, the Southern Tigers bounced back by beating Pahang 2-0 in the Super League at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan on Sunday.
The goals were scored by Brazilian strikers Heberty Fernandes (sixth minute) and Bergson Da Silva (42nd).
It was the perfect tonic for the team as they will head to Kuala Lumpur to take on Terengganu in the Malaysia Cup final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
The Argentine coach said they needed to win to show that they have put aside the disappointing episode in Japan.
“It took a lot of will and motivation. The game against Pahang wasn’t easy. The pitch wasn’t in the best condition. It was tough physically to play the game,” he said.
“Second half, we could have scored more but it was important to control the game, not concede and not get any injuries.”
JDT will now focus on the Malaysia Cup final with gusto.
“We have a champions mentality. We always demand this from everyone in the club. Our boss (Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim) has that mentality too. Losing that game against Kawasaki, we took the opportunity to see many things.
“We won so many games domestically, so it’s hard to see what needs to be improved. But that game against Kawasaki, we learnt, and looked for ways to develop.”
JDT remain unbeaten in the league with 73 points from 25 matches. It was their 24th win in the league.
Meanwhile, Pahang coach Fandi Ahmad was satisfied with his team despite the defeat. He said the team had to play without several players like Filipino midfielder Kevin Ingreso, Brazilian striker Lucas Espindola and centreback Muslim Ahmad, who left the club after their contracts expired on Nov 30.
“The coaching staff are satisfied despite the defeat. We lost to a team that is far better than us.
“But we are disappointed to concede a goal before the end of the first half. We knew we could match them with our spirit and discipline. But I am still proud of my lads,” said the Singaporean legend.
“I told them, the ones who do not play often, to give their all and play for the fans. They gave their best to the fans. I want to thank them for that.”
As for his future with the club, Fandi was coy about it.
“I am not sure, it depends on the boss.”
Pahang are fifth in the league with 44 points from 25 games.