Captain Safiq Rahim admits that the Malaysia Super League (MSL) title celebrations of Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) feel like an anti-climax after a 2-1 loss to Selangor at Selayang Stadium on Saturday night.
Pahang's 2-1 win over Kedah meant JDT still clinched a fourth consecutive MSL title with three matches to spare, but Safiq says it was hard to celebrate after a second consecutive defeat to their arch rivals.
"We are disappointed to have lost... it kind of disrupts the feeling of celebration," Safiq told ESPN FC.
"But despite losing, we are deserved champions over the course of the season. Everyone has played a big part in this victory and they deserved to be congratulated."
JDT had looked on course for their 15th league victory after taking the lead through a Natxo Insa wonder goal in the first half.
But Selangor turned the tables on them in the second half through similar strikes from Amri Yahyah and Andik Vermansyah.
Despite the setback, JDT remain 11 points clear of Kedah, heading into the last three MSL games.
They won the league by 15 points last year, but Safiq says the other teams made them battle hard for success.
"Others still give us a fight, but I think what separates us is our focus and consistency. Our teamwork is also great, and we take all the positives and negatives in stride," Safiq said.
JDT coach Ulisses Morais said he was going to sleep "as a champion" after clinching a first title in only his third month on the job.
"It is an honour to be coach of JDT. This victory could not have been achieved without so many people supporting us. I am very happy to have delivered this title, especially to the fans whom have been great," he said.
The journeyman Portuguese boss, who replaced Benjamin Mora in June, took over when the Southern Tigers were red-hot favourites. Given that by his own admission he has 29 players capable of starting for the first team some might say it would have been more difficult to lose the title than actually win it, given his embarrassment of riches.
But Morais still did his job well, delivering eight wins in 11 matches.
However, his ability to stay in the job beyond this season could hinge on his ability to win the Malaysia Cup. He will now turn his attentions to helping JDT finish above Selangor as group champions, with both teams already into the knockout stages.
"We will work towards winning the Malaysia Cup after this, as we have never won before," Morais said.
Meanwhile, Selangor coach P. Maniam says Andik's injection into the game turned the tide in his side's favour for an eighth league win.
"Andik told he wanted to play at least 30 minutes after recovering from injury, and we gave him that chance. It was brilliant to hear him wanting to play and scoring the winning goal," said Maniam.
"We are creating more chances and scoring goals. We have a month's break, and we will use that opportunity to work on our defensive deficiencies."