JDT, Kedah win in style at home to advance to Malaysia Cup final
Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will face defending champions Kedah in next month's Malaysia Cup final after dismantling Perak 3-0 in the second leg of their semifinal on Saturday night, courtesy of Gonzalo Cabrera's brace at Larkin Stadium.
The win saw JDT progress 4-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw in Ipoh last Sunday.
At Alor Setar's Darul Aman Stadium, Kedah came through 2-0 against Felda United for a 3-1 aggregate triumph.
The northern state side booked their third consecutive final after two late goals from Sandro Da Silva saw off the visitors.
At Larkin Stadium, Ulisses Morais started with Afiq Fazail in holding midfield in place of Gary Steven Robbat, while Fazly Mazlan slotted in at left-back to take over from Mohamad Hasbullah Abu Bakar.
Perak boss Mehmet Durakovic, meanwhile, went with the same selection which impressed in the 1-1 draw last week.
Both teams started off cautiously given the high stakes in this clash, with Perak doing most of the early running.
Junior Eldstal's half volley from the edge of the box brought the capacity crowd to life in the 24th minute before Perak forward Zaquan Adha saw a strong penalty claim turned down shortly after.
The game opened up as Gabriel Guerra produced the first shot on target with a powerful drive that was beaten away by Hafizul Hakim.
S. Kunanlan's jinking run took him past three Perak players before Guerra smashed wide as JDT began to take control.
Hafizul had to be had his best again with a reflex save to deny Guerra's overhead kick just before half-time.
Gilmar almost put Perak ahead with the faintest of headers from a good position after the restart.
Safiq Rahim warmed Hafizul's palms with a near-post shot before Guerra's hit just cleared the bar as the hosts stepped up a gear.
The Argentine attacker made amends in JDT's next attack, laying on a perfect through pass for his compatriot Cabrera to steer home past Hafizul into the bottom corner in the 57th minute.
Perak thought they had equalised immediately after, but Zaquan's bundled effort was harshly ruled offside by the linesman.
The visitors protested furiously, but saw their appeal fall on deaf ears.
Kunanlan cleared off the line moments later as Perak ramped up the pressure to chase the all-important away goal that would put them level on aggregate.
But Guerra killed off any hopes of a Perak comeback in the 75th minute after he expertly finished off Afiq Fazail's cross-field pass into the bottom corner.
Cabrera would go on to notch his brace nine minutes from time after a close-range finish from Darren Lok's pass.
The scoreline did not accurately reflect the closeness of the match against a feisty Perak, but JDT won't mind after advancing to only their second Malaysia Cup final.
Johor Darul Ta'zim: Izham Tarmizi (GK), Safiq Rahim (C), Fadhli Shas, Junior Eldstal, S.Kunanlan,Afiq Fazail (Nazmi Faiz 87'), Gabriel Guerra, Natxo Insa,Mohammed Ghaddar (Darren Lok 70'), Fazly Mazlan, Gonzalo Cabrera
Perak: Hafizul Hakim (GK), Shahrom Kalam (C), Nazirul Naim, Nasir Basharuddin, Ahmad Khairil Anuar, Kenny Palraj (Abdul Hadi Yahya 75'), Gilmar Jose, Amirul Azhan, Thiago Junior, Zaquan Adha (Nizad Ayub 71'), Shahrul Saad
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.