MSL Talking Points: JDT on fire again after demoted Safiq hat-trick

Defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) climbed higher up the Malaysia Super League (MSL) table after giving promoted side Malacca a 7-0 hiding, one day after a Kedah player accused another promoted side of not belonging in the top flight.

JDT’s seventh heaven puts them back in contention

Mora’s charges now have the second best attack and the best defence

Back-to-back defeats in the FA Cup and AFC Cup meant the pressure was on JDT to get back to winning ways. Malacca do appear to be crumbling, but the Southern Tigers still deserve all the credit for putting seven past the promoted side on Sunday.

The win leves JDT just two points behind leaders Pahang and Kedah and with a game in hand against Kelantan to be played on Wednesday, the defending champions could be top of the standings before next weekend’s action.

The 7-0 win did a lot to help their overall statistics this season too. Prior to the match, JDT’s attack was bettered by half of the 12-team league.

Benjamin Mora’s charges now have the second best attack with 20 goals, four behind Pahang’s tally, and the best defence.

Safiq responded to his demotion in style

Brave Mora strips Safiq’s captaincy

Brought in to raise JDT’s performances, Mora had come under fire after those consecutive losses. The improved play envisioned by club owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim had yet to materialise prior to running riot in Larkin.

Mora had to make some big decisions going into the tie against Malacca and he did just that. Stripping Safiq Rahim of the captaincy and handing it to Marcos Antonio, however, was quite unexpected considering the major influence the former Malaysia skipper is said to have in the dressing room and with JDT management.

Mora was vindicated by his brave decision

Antonio was also captain against Global of the Philippines in the AFC Cup, a match Safiq only entered from the bench. The Malaysian showed his class by responding to the decision with a hattrick against Malacca.

Mora’s other changes on Sunday included putting Farizal Marlias back in goal and playing Amirul Hadi Zainal in his more natural attacking role in central midfield as opposed to having him protect the back four.

Malacca expected to make changes

Eric Williams has two matches to get things right at Malacca or the former Yangon United coach will be looking for a new job.

Malacca have lost four of their last five matches, conceding 13 goals alone in their last three and manager Datuk Yusoff Mahadi has already served a timely warning to the coaches and players.

Williams and his imports are in trouble

“We are giving them a chance to prove something against Felda United and PKNS. If their performance is not encouraging, the management will not hesitate to make changes when the transfer window opens in May," he told BH Online.

The heavy defeat to JDT was the first time Malacca had started with all four imports – Ilija Spasojevic, Sergio Aguero, Godwin Antwi and Jeon Woo Young – but time is running out for them.

The team’s decision to part ways with Mat Zan Mat Aris, who was unceremoniously dropped after guiding Malacca to back-to-back promotions from the third tier FAM League in 2015, has yet to be vindicated.

PKNS, the rugby team?

Kedah midfielder Liridon Krasniqi went on a rant after the Red Eagles were held 1-1 by PKNS in Alor Setar.

The Kosovan claimed the Red Ants did not belong in the MSL. He and coach Tan Cheng Hoe also slammed match officials and singled out Liberian forward Patrick Wleh for rough play.

Kedah took exception to PKNS' tactics

“We don't have to say much. They didn’t play football ... had no style at all. For me, they don’t deserve to be in the MSL,” Krasniqi said to stadiumastro.

“The referees were disappointing too. This is the third time we faced a situation like this. It’s not an issue if this was rugby but we are playing football."

Kedah defenders Zachary Anderson and Syawal Nordin needed bandages to their heads after being elbowed by Wleh, who escaped referee Suhaimi Mat Hassan’s wrath.

Zainal gets a winning start at Penang

New Penang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan could not have asked for a better start.

Felda United were on the rise after their mid-week AFC Cup win over Filipino side Ceres and former Selangor coach Zainal was without centre-back Reinaldo Lobo for this match, one of their better imports this season.

The game could have gone either way as both teams had their chances before the Black Panthers snared what could be a vital victory, their first of the season coming in their ninth attempt.

Zainal has quickly got up to speed

Zainal had taken a risk by starting Puskas winner Faiz Subri, who was doubtful going into the match, but it was his second-half replacement S. Kumaahran who bagged the winner.

Penang are still bottom of the table following their 1-0 win, but they are now only three points from safety. The teams in the bottom half of the table are only separated by five points.