Analysis

Malaysia Cup: Terengganu seal slender first leg win over reigning champions Johor DT

Malik Mat Ariff emerged Terengganu’s hero at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium tonight after his solitary goal helped the Turtles nick a slender 1-0 win over Johor Darul Ta’zim in the first leg of their 2018 unifi Piala Malaysia semi final clash.

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In front of a full house in Kuala Terengganu, Johor Darul Ta’zim carved out plenty of key opportunities, especially in the first half. But their inability to convert those chances finally came back to haunt them right at the end as Malik Mat Ariff scored from close range to hand Irfan Bakti’s men a small advantage, with the second leg in Johor Bahru scheduled to take place in two weeks time.

Here are some of the key observations from tonight’s fixture:

MARQUEZ’S PRESENCE WAS SORELY MISSED

It goes without saying that Hazwan Bakri has benefited from more opportunities on the field, as a result of the injury suffered by Fernando Marquez not too long ago. But while Hazwan works incredibly hard on the pitch, he lacks the cutting edge and physical presence that would have aided them significantly in a match like tonight. Up against a defender like Igor Zonjic, Fernando Marquez would have been able to outmuscle the Serbian defender in one vs one situations – something that Hazwan generally struggled to do on the pitch tonight, before he was ultimately subbed out for Syafiq Ahmad.

TERENGGANU’S MIDFIELD SHIELD

Lee Tuck is indubitably the poster boy of Terengganu’s midfield, but due credit has to be given to Thierry Chantha Bin. The Cambodian midfield general was at his absolute best today, diving into challenges in key area and forming the all-important protective membrane over Terengganu’s defence. His presence was crucial in limiting the space afforded to Natxo Insa, and he also doubled up by applying equal amount of pressure on Fernando Elizari, every time he attempted to play a dangerous ball into the path of Gonzalo Cabrera or Safawi Rasid.

IRFAN’S SUPER SUBS

The two biggest decisions that influenced the outcome of tonight’s matches came directly from Terengganu’s bench. Irfan Bakti’s decision to introduce Faiz Nasir for the second half impacted the game in two ways. Firstly, it allowed Lee Tuck to push higher up the pitch, and combine with Kipre Tchetche, who looked a tad too isolated at times in the first 45 minutes. But beyond that, Faiz Nasir’s sheer composure and desire to always have the ball at his feet, allowed the Turtles to control the tempo of the match for large portions of the second half. And all Irfan Bakti had to do was then bring on Malik Mat Ariff to inject a bit of pace into his side’s attack – a decision that eventually culminated in them bagging a valuable goal on the night.