Pahang and Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) tightened their grip on the top two spots in the Malaysian Super League as the chasing pack faltered on Wednesday.
Pahang beat relegation threatened ATM 2-0 at the Darul Makmur Stadium with Dickson Nwakaeme scoring both goals.
The Nigerian grabbed his first of the night just inside the penalty box in the 14th minute after combining well with R. Gopinathan.
The Elephants almost doubled their lead in the 26th minute via Damion Stewart, but it was ruled out after Zesh Rehman was adjudged to be in an offside position during the build-up.
It didn’t matter, though, as Nwakaeme ensured Pahang’s next effort on goal count as he headed in a free-kick from Gopinathan.
The victory maintained their two-point lead over JDT, who recorded a 4-0 blowout win against Sime Darby for their 12th straight league victory at the Larkin Stadium.
Argentine striker Luciano Figueroa opened the floodgates by heading in a Nazrin Nawi corner before Asraruddin Putra Omar and Safiq Rahim took advantage of some slack defending by Sime Darby to increase their lead.
Figueroa saved the best for last as he pulled off an audacious scissor kick in the 68th minute to cap off his team’s strong performance.
The rest of the chasing pack – Perak, Felda United, Selangor and the LionsXII – failed to keep up with the current top two with the Lions suffering the worst result, losing 4-2 to Terengganu.
Terengganu defender Helmi Remeli easily tapped in the ball from close range after Izwan Mahbud failed to deal with Gustavo Lopez’s free-kick in the sixth minute.
Madhu Mohana restored parity in the 24th minute with a thumping header, but it was short-lived as Issey Nakajima-Farran turned in a cross from Ashari Samsudin.
The Canada international then converted his fifth goal in two games in the 51st minute after Ismail Faruqi played a through ball to set him up.
Hafiz Abu Sujad pulled one back for the LionsXII in the 54th minute, but it did not last long again as Norshahrul Idlan Talaha struck his first league goal for the Turtles just a few minutes later.
Terengganu are now on the same points as the Singaporean side in the Super League standings, as well as Felda United and Selangor.
In a game of few chances, the Fighters were perhaps lucky to walk away with a point against Kelantan after Erwin Carrillo hit the crossbar from the penalty spot shortly before the hour mark.
Similarly, fifth-placed Selangor survived the attacking onslaught by Sarawak to grab a 1-1 draw with Andik Vermansah and Patrick Nyema Gerhardt scoring for their respective teams.
With four teams currently breathing down their necks, third-placed Perak will be under severe pressure to win their next game after losing 3-2 to PDRM.
The Cops raced to a 3-0 lead thanks to Ali Ashfaq and Dramane Traore, but Perak’s Thiago Junior and Horace James both struck in the dying minutes of the match to make the score slightly respectable.
The victory has all but secured PDRM's place in next season's Super League, as they are now 15 points ahead of 11th-placed ATM with five matches remaining.