KUCHING: It was a 1-1 draw but Sarawak went home the happier team than Johor Darul Ta’zim FC (JDT) in Johor Bahru on Saturday night.
Many Sarawak fans, and one would imagine Johor fans as well, had predicted that Sarawak would likely end the match at the Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium empty-handed.
There are good reasons why JDT, hot favourites to win this year’s Super League title, are called the Southern Tigers or Manchester City of Malaysia.
So, why didn’t the star-studded team overflowing with talent – a rich stable of national players mixed with world-class footballers Pablo Aimar and Luciano Figueroa – roll over the Crocs, newly promoted into the Super League?
In the post-match interview, JDT’s manager Bojan Hodak said the turning point of the match was when their goalkeeper had to be substitued after he was knocked out early in the first half.
Custodian Mohd Izham Tarmizi came up second best when he clashed with Sarawak’s Mohd Rashid in the penalty box.
Shortly after, Chanturu Suppiah put the Crocs in front in the 16th minute with a superb long range shot.
It was Figueroa who saved JDT the blushes with the equaliser in the 29th minute.
Both teams fought hard to break the deadlock thereafter but neither succeeded.
Sarawak had their chances. Hassan El Mohamad and Ryan Griffiths, playing their second Super League match, continued to show promise by creating a few openings during the match.
Both coaches tried to be diplomatic after the match.
Sarawak head coach Robert Alberts praised JDT’s quality display of football and recognised the pressure on them playing in front of their fans.
Hodak hailed Sarawak as a well-organised side.
“They managed to walk away with a point tonight (last Saturday) due to the way they approached the game. They were a highly disciplined team,” he said.
It was a valuable one point which enabled Sarawak to retain seventh spot in the league table as the competition intensifies.