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Thursday March 22, 2012

FAM debutants edge Penang Panthers 2-1 in ‘local derby’

THE pressure of having to deliver at home has always been in the PBAPP FC’s camp but the Cup debutants continued to come out with the right results.

That was the scenario at the City Stadium on Sunday as the Penang clubside outshined the fancied Penang Panthers.

In what can be termed as a local derby, PBAPP condemned its very own State team to their second straight defeat after three FAM Cup League outings, as they trooped out 2-1 winners over a 10-man Penang Panthers side.

To add insult to injury, Penang football which had already been demoted from the Super League to a now third tier competition, it was a hard-earned come from behind win for PBAPP.

Eager to show that their success in holding army outfit Land Forces to a 1-1 draw in their inaugural FAM Cup outing last week was not a fluke, PBAPP rallied back after suffering an early 11th minute hiccup.

But to be fair to the Penang State side, they were the early aggressors and were determined to make up for that 3-1 home defeat they had suffered at the hands of Kuantan Port at the State Stadium in Batu Kawan on March 14.

Oozing with confidence, they exploited PBAPP’s inexperience, being a rookie at the national football scene, and took the initiative of bringing the fight to their clubside rivals.

Then just as PBAPP was struggling to contain the pressure of having to meet the high expectations of their home fans, the Panthers struck with venom.

At the 11-minute mark, a Hasrul Abu Bakar corner found Muamar Nur Halim unmarked inside the six-yard box and his well placed header gave former national goalkeeper Megat Amir Faisal no chance of preventing Penang Panthers from drawing first blood.

Inspired by the goal, Penang Panthers continued with their marauding ways and nearly put the clubside into more trouble in the 22nd minute.

Nippy Amirul Omar, who managed to sneak past the experienced PBAPP skipper Mat Saiful Mohd, firmly placed himself in scoring position. But with only Megat Amir to beat, the Penang bench watched in disbelief when he hastily bolted over from point blank range.

That scare finally shook PBAPP out of slumber and the Penang Panthers only escaped punishment when the clubside lacked imagination to make their offensive moves count.

However, PBAPP were not to be denied their moments of glory. The pep talk by coach Zabidi Hassan at the breather was what they needed to get going and the clubside was finally playing with confidence to search for the equaliser when they returned for the second half.

Their pinpoint long cross to the heart of the Penang goal rattled the Panthers considerably, giving hope to PBAPP’s search for goal.

The second half was just 10 minutes old when PBAPP found their long overdue goal, with Mohd Farizal Rozali finishing off a S. Thingaran corner with a powerful header to put his side on level terms in the 50th minute.

If that was not bad enough for the Panthers, they plunged into deeper problems just two minutes later when striker Thana Raj was given the marching order for a crude tackle on PBAPP’s Zainudin Abidin.

With PBAPP already back on song, the numerical disadvantage told on the Panthers and the moment Thinagaran beat goalkeeper Abdul Shukur Malek with a firm grounder after latching onto a neat Zulhissyam Jamaluddin through ball, it spelt trouble.

The Panthers, despite making a more concerted effort to repair the damage, never recovered with that 74th minute strike, proving to be the all-important winner for the Penang clubside.

Penang team manager Dr Hamdan Mohd Ali readily admitted that Thana Raj’s dismissal put paid to their hopes of even salvaging a draw in this local derby.

“Although I am quite satisfied with our performance, we were made to pay a heavy price after we were placed in a numerical disadvantage as Hasmawi (Hassan) was a lone figure in attack,” said Dr Hamdan.

“However, with this just being our third game, I am confident we can still bounce back with good results.”

PBAPP team manager Jamil Mohd Noor however has no complaint about the result.

“Although we did not play as well as we did in our league opener against Land Forces on March 14, what matters most is our ability to get all three points at home,” said Jamil.

“This alone is a big relief for my players. It is not only our first win at a national championship, but it being our first home game of the season, the win has given us the much needed confidence other than an encouraging start to our campaign.”

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