FA Cup talking points: JDT show Kedah who’s boss

Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) overturned a 2-1 deficit in the FA Cup semi-final against Kedah to book a date with PKNS. Vijhay Vick compiles a list of factors crucial to the victory.

JDT a different animal at Larkin

The Southern Tigers never really looked like losing this one despite the match threatening to go into extra-time at one point.

Having lost just once at Larkin Stadium since September 2013, the club – including the fans – strive to ensure Larkin is arguably the most feared place to visit in Malaysian football. (Not for Felda United though). The club’s proud home record is only a testament to their strength.

The Boys of Straits, Johor’s version of Ultras Malaya, were loud and boisterous throughout the match, and when their levels went down a few notches, JDT club owner Tunku Ismail Sultan could be seen trying to send a message to the fans from the VIP box in order to get the noise levels back up again.

Kedah’s irreplaceable Krasniqi

Kosovan Liridon Krasniqi is so influential for Kedah that one man’s absence left a gaping in the engine room, an area Malaysia skipper Safiq Rahim and his Singaporean counterpart Hariss Harun finally had the freedom to dictate play in.

In the previous two meetings in the run-up to the second-leg, Krasniqi dominated proceedings and his absence through suspension even made Kedah coach Tan Cheng Hoe alter the Red Eagles’ style of play after their short passing approach was undone by the hosts.

Kedah opted to play more long balls forwards in hope their wingers get the better of their markers and that paid off when Baddrol Bakhtiar’s lob over the defence set Ahmad Fakri Saarani free for what turned out to be their only goal of the night.

Azinee’s eagerness got the better of him

Left-winger Azinee Taib has been knocking on the Ong Kim Swee’s door for an Malaysia call-up.

His burst of speed and energetic performance would have surely caught the attention of national team assistant coach Brad Maloney in the stands but the Australian would have also taken note of the host of chances the 25-year-old skied until he was taken off.

JDT could have wrapped the match in the first-half had Azinee had his shooting boots on. It was in the 43rd minute that even Mario Gomez would have been thinking it was not going to be Azinee’s night.

All the former Penang player had to do was direct a ball goal bound after Jorge Pereyra Diaz did the hard work in the penalty box, but instead he once again skied the ball to the dismay of the JDT faithful.

Electrifying atmosphere

The build-up to the match promised an entertaining affair after both clubs bantered each other on social media with artwork, and over 25,000 turned up to watch JDT prevail 3-1 on the night.

For the record, the stadium only has a 17,000 capacity for AFC Cup matches but less stringent rules in domestic competitions allow JDT to pack the stadium.

The other semi-final between Perak and PKNS drew a 30,000-odd crowd to the Perak Stadium but the hosts were left disappointed after the Red Ants prevailed 2-1.

Such crowds may have occasionally led to trouble due to handful of irresponsible acts by a portion of hooligans, but on nights where everything is smooth and sailing, like in Larkin on Saturday, the massive turnout is something to experience.

​Photos: Football Malaysia LLP