PENANG and Kedah traded blows in their Premier League match before a sellout crowd of nearly 15,000 fans before settling for a 3-3 draw.
Early on, the decisions of the man in black Mohamed Fairuzi Mat Desa earned the wrath of the home fans who gathered at the City Stadium in George Town.
When Kedah’s P. Rajesh appeared to have handled the ball inside the box within two minutes of play, Mohamed Fairuzi waved for play to go on and this resulted in jeering from the disgruntled fans.
Then when Mohamed Fairuzi again awarded Kedah a goal kick after Penang striker Mohamed Faiz Subri was brought down in the box by Kedah’s Muhammad Syazwwan, the jeers turned into boos.
Already with the Penang fans feeling cheated of being denied what should have been a penalty for Penang, Kedah went on to add insult to injury when they drew first blood in the 4th minute.
Kedah’s South Korean striker Bang Seung Hwan slipped past the entire Penang defence to latch onto a Baddrol Bakhtiar pass.
He then silenced the home fans when he planted the ball beyond an advancing Penang goalkeeper Sani Anuar Kamsani to put Kedah into a dream lead.
The Penang defence slipped into deeper waters just 10 minutes later.
This time, it was Baddrol’s turn to deliver the blow.
After Sani spilled the ball in a bid to stop another Seung Hwan attempt, Baddrol latched onto the loose ball to gleefully tuck a grounder shot into goal for a 2-0 lead.
That was enough to knock Penang out of rhythm and it was not until the 32nd minute that the Panthers finally pounced back into action.
The Panthers struck with venom when Mohamed Faiz Subri finished off a move initiated by South Korean Lee Gil Hoon by chipping home a well-placed shot over a rooted Kedah goalkeeper Abdul Hadi Hamid.
Penang coach Jacksen Ferreira Tiago’s decision to send in Hilton Mauro Moreira for Mohamed Azinee Taib at the start of the second half paid instant dividend.
Moreira slipped past the entire Kedah defence to crash home Penang’s equaliser, causing the home supporters to become delirious.
With both teams exchanging blows after that, the clash seemed destined for a 2-2 stalemate until Kedah’s Seung Hwan charged in to nod home an unstoppable header.
This put Kedah back in the lead in the 89th minute. However, before Kedah could finish celebrating, Penang hit back.
Moreira glanced home a cross from Elias Sulaiman in the 90th minute for a 3-3 finish.
That was enough to bring cheer back to the Penang bench.
“Despite a lapse in concentration that nearly tarnished our good run, my Panthers displayed good fighting spirit.
“I am glad they did not disappoint our home fans,” said Tiago.
Kedah coach Tan Cheng Hoe, in contrast, was utterly disappointed, seeing his team cruelly denied what should have been an outright win for his charges.
Meanwhile, the Premier League will take a two-week break to make way for the third round FA Cup challenge which will be held tomorrow.
It will swing back into the thick of the action on April 3.
RESULTS (matches played on Friday)
Penang 3 Kedah 3, JDT II 2 PKNS FC 2, Negri Sembilan 3 Terengganu T-Team 5, Sabah 2 Kuantan FA 0, KL SPA Putrajaya FC 0 DRB Hicom FC 4, Kuala Lumpur 0 UiTM FC 1
FIXTURES (FA CUP 3rd round)
Tomorrow (all matches start at 8.45pm)
Negri Sembilan vs Penang
(Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium, Paroi)Sime Darby FC vs Police
(Municipal Stadium, Selayang)Kelantan vs Kuala Lumpur
(Sultan Mohamad IV Stadium, Kota Baru)Perak vs Terengganu T-Team
(Perak Stadium, Ipoh)Kedah vs Johor Darul Ta’zim II
(Darulaman Stadium, Alor Setar)
Selangor vs Terengganu
(Shah Alam Stadium, 8.45pm).
Pahang vs MISC-IFA
(Darulmakmur Stadium, Kuantan, 8.45pm)Lions XII FC vs KL SPA Putrajaya
(Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore, 7.45pm)