Singapore international midfielder Hariss Harun admits that the 2015 success of Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will be hard to replicate this year, despite opening the 2016 Malaysian season with an instant trophy.
JDT won the Malaysia Charity Shield on Saturday night after defeating Selangor 7-6 on penalties after Hariss' first half goal put the home side ahead at Larkin Stadium. The game doubled as the opening round of the Malaysia Super League.
It was 1-1 after 90 minutes, meaning that both teams will take a point from their first match, but JDT have the psychological boost of holding their nerve in the shootout.
"We've suffered a couple of defeats in the penalty shootouts in the past in the last one or two years so it's a relief, especially at home, to win this Cup," Hariss told ESPN FC.
For the second consecutive season, JDT marked the start of the year by winning the traditional curtain raiser. But Hariss acknowledges that far tougher challenges lie ahead.
"We've got to defend our titles ... it's harder to defend your titles and actually win it the first time," he said.
"That will be the challenge for us. I think a lot of the teams have strengthened, especially in the AFC Cup."
Hariss, who is in his third season with the Southern Tigers, also found the back of the net with his spot kick to follow his coolly taken goal from a header in first half injury time after Safiq Rahim's corner.
The 25-year-old midfielder will have little time to rest with JDT headed to Terengganu ahead of Tuesday night's match at newly promoted T-Team.
Hariss added that he's enjoyed playing with JDT's new recruits, including debutant Martin Lucero, who only arrived in Malaysia on Wednesday after playing in his native Argentina last weekend.
"For us, it is about taking one game at a time, one competition at a time as we jell well together as a team," he said.
"We just have to do our best in every game."
JDT will begin the defence of their AFC Cup title with a Group H match at home to Myanmar's Ayeyawady United on Feb. 24.