The 2021 Malaysian League officially kicked off with the annual curtain-raiser, the Charity Shield match saw defending champion Johor Darul Ta’zim FC (JDT) retained the trophy in an exciting match at the state-of-the-art Sultan Ibrahim Stadium last Friday.

The Southern Tigers soundly beat Kedah Darul Aman FC 2-0 to haul three starting points. Interestingly, it was a rematch of last year’s Charity Shield that was won by JDT, also at the same venue.

The holders started their 2021 campaign with a convincing display throughout the entire match with a goal each from Safawi Rasid and Natxo Insa to secure the team’s seventeenth cup victory.

Image courtesy of JDT

Kedah’s attacking front, however, was mostly subdued by superb defending of the Southern Tigers, thus setting pace and control over the majority of the match.

Three shots hit the bar in the first half, with two attempts coming from JDT.

As early as the third minute, Leandro Velazquez almost opened the scoresheet with a powerful shot that hit the bar.

Similarly, Gonzalo Cabrera also did the same in the tenth minute. Kedah’s Tchetche Kipre made a wonderful volley that could have been a great goal, yet denied by the bar eight minutes after.

Ten minutes to halftime, a corner by Cabrera got Afiq Fazail to pass the ball to stalwart Safawi Rasid for him to coolly score a goal, amid the crowded goal area. The Southern Tigers were leading 1-0 at halftime.

Image: www.facebook.com/malaysianfootballleague

Coming into the second half, Kedah was visibly struggling to outplay their opponents, especially at midfield. The Kedah camp further suffered setbacks as its goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal and defender Syazwan Tajudin were stretchered off for injuries.

In the 47th minute, Safawi Rasid’s solo attempt almost hit the back of the net, but JDT’s heritage player Natxo Insa took the chance by adding the second goal with a long-range shot in the 68th minute. The score ultimately settled the victors and secured the trophy.

JDT coach Benjamin Mora was happy with his side’s victory and performance, noting that their determination and desire to win were the boost to defend the championship.

The win gave a clear signal to their league opponents that the Southern Tigers are ready to win the league for the eighth time in a row.

Image courtesy of JDT

Though again conceded to runners-up, Kedah coach Aidil Sharin was adamant that his team will bounce back amid the defeat, praising the fighting spirit that was shown on the field against a better team.

Pertaining to injuries, he will consult with club doctors to assess the situation to help him manage his side for the next match.

Other results on Saturday saw Selangor beat Sri Pahang FC 3-1 while Penang FC overcomes KL City FC 1-0 while Melaka United and Sabah both share a point with a 1-1 draw meanwhile host UiTM FC suffered to a 2-1 lost to Terengganu FC.

On Sunday Perak and PJ City recorded their first point of the campaign with a 0-0 draw in Ipoh. All matches are played behind closed doors with strict COVID-19 guidelines per Malaysian government’s recommendation.

THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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