Jorge Pereyra Diaz helps JDT clinch MSL title by beating Terengganu
Celebrations were in full flow at Larkin Stadium on Friday night after Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) duly wrapped up their third consecutive Malaysia Super League (MSL) title with a 3-0 triumph over Terengganu.
Jorge Pereyra Diaz's brace, including a penalty, coupled with Safiq Rahim's own spot kick helped JDT become the first team in the country to have clinched a hat trick of league successes since the MSL's inception in 2004.
Victory, on a rapturous night in Larkin was witnessed by 24,220 Southern Tigers' fans in full voice. Throughout the 90 minutes, they were singing and drumming their troops to the win which cemented their stranglehold on domestic football.
JDT, who also won the Charity Shield in February and FA Cup in May, have been superior in every sense over their competitors this season. The win against Terengganu was their 16th success in 20 games, with 49 goals scored and 12 conceded, which is the best in both categories in 2016.
Mario Gomez's champions were also impeccable in their head-to-head record against their opponents before the game, winning 14 times in 19 meetings since 2006.
The Argentine made two changes for this game, as Amirulhadi Zainal came in for the suspended Hariss Harun, while Amri Yahyah, who captained Malaysia in the 3-0 loss to Indonesia, started in place of Azniee Taib.
Terengganu, only a point above Penang in 10th place, needed a result against the champions elect, and did a gutsy job in midfield to halt the supply line to JDT forwards Juan Martin Lucero and Diaz.
The men in blue and white should have taken the lead midway through the first half, but Aidil Zafuan fluffed his lines in front of goal with a free header that sailed wide.
But JDT, who won in the reverse fixture 2-0, were building in momentum and went ahead shortly after. S. Kunanlan's surging run into the penalty box ended with the fullback tugged down by Dhiyaulrahman. Diaz coolly sent Sharbinee Allawee to put his side ahead in the 27th minute.
The goal was the Argentine's 16th in the league, and puts him at the top of the MSL chart ahead of Saturday's matches.
Issey Nakajima-Farran was JDT's biggest threat, and the Canadian forward twice tested Izham Tarmizi, with shots on target before the break.
Knowing a second goal would confirm their league title, JDT continued to probe their visitors. Only the excellence of Sharbinee, who kept out efforts of Yahyah and Lucero, kept the visitors within touching distance.
But it was Sharbinee who confirmed JDT's historic campaign, as he rashly toppled Diaz in the box. Skipper Safiq buried his penalty into the bottom corner in the 84th minute.
Diaz would go on to add his 17th league goal two minutes later. Azamuddin Akil's clever dink was turned home by the Argentine to mark a perfect night for the reigning champions.
If they go on to achieve results against T-Team and Selangor in their final two games, JDT will set a new milestone as the only unbeaten team in the MSL.
JDT: Izham Tarmizi (GK), Marcos Antonio, Aidil Zafuan, S. Kunanlan, Fazly Mazlan, Amirulhadi Zainal (Gary Steven Robbat 65'), Safiq Rahim (C), Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Juan Martin Lucero, Amri Yahyah (Shakir Shaari 91'), Azamuddin Akil (S Chanturu 86')
Terengganu: Sharbinee Allawee (GK), Muhd Hafizal, Hasmizan Kamarodin, Vincent Bikana, Dhiyaulrahman, Sharin Sapien, Joseph Kallang Tie (Ahmad Nordin 74'), Fakhrurazi Musa, Ashari Shamsuddin, Issey Nakajima-Farran, Bogdan Milic (Hairuddin Omar 76')
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.