Johor Darul Ta'zim, Terengganu begin with a bang: What we learned from the opening round of the 2022 Malaysia Cup

Johor Darul Ta'zim opened their Malaysia Cup campaign with an emphatic 4-0 win over Petaling Jaya City in the first leg of the Round of 16 on Wednesday. Johor Darul Ta'zim FC

With the Malaysia Super League done and dusted in 2022 as Johor Darul Ta'zim claimed a 9th consecutive title, the focus has now switched to a different front with the 96th edition of the Malaysia Cup kicking off on Wednesday.

This year's competition has done away with an opening group-stage format, meaning it has begun directly with a two-legged knockout system starting from the Round of 16 through to the semifinals, before the decider takes place on Nov. 26.

As expected, JDT will be the favourites and got their campaign off to a flying start but there were also a handful of challengers that issued a statement of intent in the first leg of the Round of 16 over the past couple of days.

Here, we take a closer look at five key takeaways ahead of the return encounters on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

JDT are still the team to beat

Strangely enough, there is a feeling that this is the one trophy that JDT are truly hungry for this season -- especially given they only have two Malaysia Cups to show for throughout their recent dominance of the MSL.

And for a side that has swept aside all that have come before them for the past nine years, it is perhaps also slightly curious that the Southern Tigers are yet to claim a domestic treble.

With the league and FA Cup already in the bag, 2022 represents a perfect chance for them to tick the treble off the to-do list.

They could not have got their quest off to a better start with a dominant 4-0 win over Petaling Jaya City on Wednesday, even more impressive given their spread of four individual scorers did not include leading marksman Bergson da Silva, who netted 29 times in the league alone.

Underestimate Negeri Sembilan at your own risk

A brilliant first year back in the top flight saw Negeri Sembilan claim a creditable fourth-place finish in the MSL.

So surely they have expended all their energy with little left in the tank for a Malaysia Cup run? Think again.

Despite a tricky opening tie against Kedah Darul Aman, Negeri Sembilan did well to grind out a 2-1 away win that gives themselves an excellent chance of getting the job done in the second leg on Tuesday.

With JDT in the other half of the draw, K. Devan and his charges will already be backing themselves to have every chance of getting to the final at the very least.

KL City show no signs of continental hangover

Just five days after falling short in the AFC Cup final to Oman's Al Seeb, it was always going to be interesting as to what kind of response Kuala Lumpur City were going to muster.

Granted, it was not against the toughest of opposition -- with all due respect to PDRM -- but KL City still proved they are made of sturdy stuff as they bounced back from falling just short on the continental front with a polished 3-0 win on Thursday.

The usual suspects shone for the City Boys, with Romel Morales' double sandwiching a Paulo Josue strike, but make no mistake that this is a well-drilled outfit with contributors all across the park.

Having already gone all the way last season, beating JDT 3-0 in the final no less, there is no reason why the defending champions cannot repeat the feat and end 2022 on a high.

Terengganu have found form at the perfect time

It is remarkable to think that it was not that long ago that Terengganu were languishing in mid-table of the MSL midway through the campaign.

After a run of nine consecutive wins to end the season saw them surge up the standings to finish second, the Turtles have brought their form into cup competition as they began with an emphatic 5-1 rout of Sri Pahang on Thursday.

Barring a major collapse in the second leg on Tuesday, Terengganu can already start preparing for a quarterfinal tie against either Kuala Lumpur City or PDRM - with the former their likelier opponents.

While Kpah Sherman led the way for the Turtles with a hat-trick against Pahang, Malaysia international Faisal Abdul Halim is also shaping up as someone who could light up the competition with his electric displays and have an important say in how far his team go.

Could one of the second-tier outfits go far?

In the 101-year history of the Malaysia Cup, only once has it been won by a team outside the top flight -- the now-defunct MPPJ FC in 2003, who also became the first non-state team to be crowned champions.

It looks unlikely that the 2022 edition will go against this trend but there are a couple of second-tier outfits that have shown promising signs.

As the highest-ranked Malaysia Premier League team, Kelantan were always going to have the best chance and they do hold a 1-0 aggregate lead over Sarawak United heading into the second leg, with one foot already in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, Kuching City also have a favourable draw and first-leg result to build on, having played out a 2-2 with top-flight strugglers Penang on Wednesday.