Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) powered their way to top spot in the Malaysia Super League after a Gabriel Guerra brace propelled them to a 3-2 triumph over 10-man Kelantan in Kota Bharu on Wednesday night.
Benjamin Mora made a few changes to his lineup for this rescheduled game. None was more surprising than the return of former Kelantan hard man Shakir Saari, who made his first league start for JDT in 660 days.
R. Gopinathan was also given a rare chance in attack, while Kelantan once again turned to the mercurial Mohammad Ghaddar for goals.
JDT had kept a shutout in their 7-0 drubbing of Melaka United on Sunday. But the Southern Tigers were susceptible at the back having conceded six goals in their two games before that.
True enough, the visitors were breached after just two minutes when Mohammad Ghaddar converted Farisham Ismail's cross for his 11th goal of the season.
The Lebanese hit man was fired up to strike again in front of a capacity crowd, and notched his double after 12 minutes to give Kelantan a comfortable advantage, with JDT looking shaky in defence.
But Safiq Rahim, who scored a hat trick against Melaka, dragged his side into the contest with a delicious free kick as JDT battled back to 2-1.
The captain's stunner set the perfect tonic for a comeback, and Gabriel Guerra rose to the occasion, determined not to let Ghaddar take the limelight.
The Argentine dragged JDT level on the half-hour mark from the penalty spot before firing home another goal just a minute later as the visitors led 3-2 after a cracking first 45 minutes.
Fazly Mazlan was introduced for S. Kunanlan, while Gopinathan made way Azamuddin Akil as Mora made early second-half reshuffles to preserve a team playing their fourth game in 12 days.
2017 MALAYSIA SUPER LEAGUE TABLE AS OF APRIL 12TH, 2017
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*subject to change pic.twitter.com/AIDC3UbGKs
- JOHORSouthernTigers (@OfficialJohor) April 12, 2017
But Kelantan shot themselves in the foot after 75 minutes when Qayyum Marjoni received his marching orders. JDT closed out the match comfortably enough to return to a position at the top of the table they've become so accustomed to over the past three years.
JDT: Farizal Marlias (GK), Fadhli Shas, Marcos Antonio, Azrif Nasrulhaq, S. Kunanlan, Amirulhadi Zainal, Shakir Saari, Safiq Rahim (C), Gonzalo Cabrera,R.Gopinathan,Gabriel Guerra
Kelantan: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (GK), Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Farisham Ismail, Mamadou Danso, Badhri Radzi (C), Khairul Izuan, Morgaro Gomis, Mohammad Ghaddar, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Danial Ashraf