Mehmet Durakovic brushes aside Shahrom Kalam gaffe vs. JDT
Coach Mehmet Durakovic refused to blame Shahrom Kalam after the Perak captain made the mistake that allowed Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) to grab an important away goal in the Malaysia Cup semifinals in Ipoh.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw ahead of Saturday's second leg at Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru.
Perak seemed on a course for a home victory, and led 1-0 midway through the second half, having taken an early lead from Mohamad Hasbullah Abu Bakar's own goal after good pressure from Zaquan Adha.
That was until Shahrom's indecisiveness midway through the second half allowed JDT striker Mohammed Ghaddar to equalise.
But Durakovic stood by his national defender after the setback ahead of the tough trip to Johor.
"Look, this things happens in football. Everyone makes mistakes at some point and you just have to move past it," Durakovic said.
"JDT are a great side and we proved that we can play too. Overall, it was a fair result and a fantastic performance from Perak, considering we were missing four or five players."
The silver state side would have been disappointed not to come away with the win, having slightly edged proceedings, with their high pressing intensity and relentless running.
Perak were missing a host of players, including Yashir Pinto and Leandro Dos Santos, as well as Nazrin Nawi and Jasazrin Jamaluddin, who were cup-tied.
The former Australia international is looking to get the services of his two foreigners for the Larkin Stadium clash.
"We are hoping to get some players for the return leg. It won't be easy as the atmosphere in JDT is fantastic, but I'm sure my players will give it everything," Durakovic said.
Perak last made the Malaysia Cup final in 2007, but were upstaged 3-0 by a Kedah side who went on to complete a treble that year.
JDT coach Ulisses Morais said the result was an "acceptable" one.
"It was a tough game against a good team. We had more chances to score in the second half, but the result was acceptable," Morais said.
"We are playing the next game at home, and we want to reach the final."
Security will need to be paramount at Larkin Stadium after some fans suffered injuries in Ipoh as home fans hurled firecrackers at the end of the first-leg match.
The other semifinal between Felda United and Kedah is also evenly poised at 1-1, ahead of the return leg in Alor Setar on Saturday, after both teams ended the first tie.
Sandro Da Silva's penalty on the hour mark looked set to give Kedah an important away goal. But a late header from Hadin Azman means Felda are on course to make their first-ever Malaysia Cup final.
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.