IT WAS yet another slender win but the Penang Panthers are not complaining.
Although the Panthers carved out another slim 1-0 triumph, this time against Kuala Lumpur, it was enough to spark off a celebration on the stands as the home fans welcomed the Premier League victory.
Even Brazilian coach Jacksen Ferreira Tiago managed a smile when the final whistle went off.
This is the fourth time that the Panthers have registered 1-0 wins, three times in their League campaign in four outings and the other in their home FA Cup clash against Perlis on Feb 28.
“Our slender win over Perlis have assured us of a third round showdown against Negri Sembilan on March 17. I’m happy that our three home wins over Kuantan FA, Selangor PKNS FC and now Kuala Lumpur have given us nine precious points.
“Coupled with the one point we picked up on the road against Terengganu T-Team on Feb 13, the 10 points garnered from four outings, have not only enabled us to maintain an unbeaten run but it has allowed us to share the leadership with Negri Sembi-lan.
“Although we have to be contented with second spot due to an inferior goal difference, I feel at ease as we are not only in a strong position at this stage, but have been showing improvement in our games,” he said.
Tiago is not wrong in stressing on improvement, if his team’s performances in all the three home outings are to be used as a yardstick.
If they had to depend on an own goal from Kuantan FA to troop out as winners in their League opener on Feb 6 and then a penalty against PKNS FC to register their second, Friday’s goal against Kuala Lumpur was their first win from open play.
Embarking on their continued campaign in grand fashion, the Panthers pounded the Kuala Lumpur defence led by Martin Ekoule from Cameroon.
In one of the raids, Mohamed Faiz Subri had one decisive strike, which came after 39 minutes and it proved to be their eventual winner.
Although the Panthers’ strike force led by Brazilian ace Beto Goncalves Da Costa were literally punching holes in the Kuala Lumpur defence, they found goalkeeper Badrol Hanapi Ali to be in superb form, pulling off numerous grand saves.
Left trailing by that Mohamed Faiz goal at the breather, Kuala Lumpur returned strongly in the second half but the Panthers’ defence helmed by Brazilian Oliveira Lobo, stood the continuous bombardment. Kuala Lumpur’s Cameroon-Nigerian partnership of strikers Kalle Sole-Iyanu Ogunboye just could not breach the formidable Penang defence.
Portuguese coach Ricardo Manuel, who conceded that Penang played a better first half, was, however, highly critical with what he claimed was Penang’s failure to display fair play.
“We had one player down (injured) when Penang scored their lone goal. They should have put the ball out if they had adhered to the fair play rule.
“Otherwise, I thought we were better in the second half, although Penang was in complete control of the first,” he said.
Victory for Penang came at a price as they would have to do without two key players, Lobo and Muhammad Rafiuddin Rodin, who picked up their third book-ing against Kuala Lumpur. They have to serve a one-match ban which will rule them out of the home Premier League game against Kedah at the City Stadium today.
FIXTURES FOR TODAY
Penang vs Kedah (City Stadium, 8.45pm); JDT II vs PKNS FC (Pasir Gudang Municipal Stadium, 8.45pm); Negri Sembilan vs Terengganu T-Team (Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium, 8.45pm); Sabah vs Kuantan FA (Likas Sports Complex, 8.15pm); KL SPA Putrajaya FC vs DRB Hicom FC (Petaling Jaya Municipal Stadium, 4.45pm); UiTM FC vs Kuala Lumpur (UiTM Stadium, Shah Alam, 4.45pm).