Pahang will aim to score an early goal to convert their advantage when the 2014 Malaysia FA Cup champions travel to face Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in the quarterfinal second leg of the 2017 edition on Sunday night.
Dollah Salleh’s side won 3-1 in Kuantan on April 1 in the first leg, but captain Matt Davies warns that a two-goal advantage won’t be enough for the hostile atmosphere of Larkin Stadium as the top two teams in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) face off.
“I don’t want to reveal too much in terms of tactics. Having said that, I don’t think we’ll set up ultra-defensively,” Davies told ESPN FC.
“It’s not enough to have a two-goal lead at Larkin Stadium. I think we need to get a goal to have a good chance of making it to the semifinals.”
Due to their absence from the 2017 AFC Cup, Pahang have had more than a week to prepare for the showdown, compared to only four days for Johor. JDT travelled to Cambodia midweek, beating Boeung Ket Angkok 3-0 in Phnom Penh on Wednesday night.
“Everyone’s fit and raring to go… we’ve had a nice little eight-day break going into the game,” Davies said. “It’s been nice to rest up and we’re 95 percent a full squad, barring one or two players. We’re almost 100 percent in terms of squad strength.
With an eye on the second leg, JDT rested many of their top stars like Safiq Rahim and Hazwan Bakri in Cambodia, with Gabriel Guerra coming off the bench to score the final goal in the second half.
“I think JDT have got a very strong squad,” Davies said. “Obviously, we have to look out for local players like Shafiq and Hazwan and, of course, Gabby Guerra has been in very good form for them.”
Pahang and JDT have enjoyed a healthy rivalry in Cup competitions in recent years. Dollah Salleh, in his previous stint as coach, and his successor Zainal Abidin Hassan tasted more Cup success than the Johorians between 2013-15, winning the Malaysia, FA Cup and Charity Shield on four occasions.
Davies added that Dollah’s experience as a five-time Malaysia Cup champion — as a player and coach — will provide an advantage in Johor Bahru.
He said: “It will help. He’s certainly proven to be calm under pressure, and having the experience to have played and coached in these games is only going to work in our favour.”
In the last meeting between the sides at Larkin Stadium, JDT won 3-2 in the MSL on March 3, with Hazwan scoring a first-half double. An identical result in the second leg would see Pahang prevail 5-4 on aggregate.
The winners of Sunday’s quarterfinal will play Negeri Sembilan in the FA Cup semifinals, with the first leg at home on April 29, and the second leg away on May 13.
Negeri prevailed 1-0 over Sabah in their quarterfinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg at Paroi on Friday night.
The other semifinal will pit…