IT must have been painful for Penang’s young Panthers when they had an outright win yanked out of their clutches by the Cops in their President’s Cup showdown.
The Penang President’s Cuppers had looked set to bounce back after defeat to Selangor PKNS FC on April 22.
However, an equaliser by Police during added time forced them to share the spoils in the Group B clash at the Universiti Sains Malaysia grounds in Penang.
It all looked good for the Panthers after their second-half substitute Mohamed Faizal Abu Bakar, sent in for an injured Mohamed Failee Ghazli, gave them a 59th minute lead.
Mohamed Faizal bolted home from the penalty spot after teammate Som Keat Praseart was blatantly brought down by Police defender Mohammad Shafiq.
Then in the last minute of the match and with victory within their grasp, the Panthers themselves conceded a penalty.
An unfortunate late tackle by defender Abdul Qayyum Mohamed Jabrullah Khan on Police’s Muhammad Izzat Kamal had the referee overruling his linesman’s offside claim and awarding Police a penalty.
As it was Abdul Qayyum’s second bookable offence, he had to leave the field, leaving Penang with just 10 men.
Then Khairul Izuan of Police stepped up to put his side on the level to make the score 1-1.
The final whistle went off almost immediately after that, triggering a strong protest from the Penang players who felt the referee had erred in his decision.
The matter threatened to turn ugly but Penang coach S. Veloo and other team officials quickly stepped in to quell the situation while policemen on duty escorted the match officials off the field.
Penang players and fans were annoyed as the team were so close to stopping Police’s 12-match unbeaten streak.
Penang were denied two points and this cost them a chance to reclaim the number three spot in the 10-team Group B table.
With a 21-point credit from six wins and two draws after 12 league assignments, Penang have to stay put in fourth spot, a point behind third-placed PKNS SC.
It is also a big blow to their hopes of regaining their place in the top two in the group.
They are now five points adrift of table topper Kedah who have 26 points and three points adrift of Police who have 24 points.
Veloo described their predicament as a highly painful one as until that fateful penalty decision in the final minute of the match, they were headed for victory.
“It is just unfortunate,” said a disappointed Veloo.
“I feel sorry for my players who worked extremely hard and were so determined to end Police’s unbeaten run.
“We would have achieved just that had it not been for that penalty decision as, until then, Police never looked like a scoring side,” he said.
Veloo added that to add insult to injury, they now had to do without the contributions of Abdul Qayyum in defence when they take on Malacca at the Hang Tuah Stadium tomorrow.
RESULTS: (matches played on Wednesday)
Selangor bt Armed Forces 1-0; Terengganu bt Perlis 1-0; Pahang bt Sarawak 5-0; Sime Darby FC bt Johor Darul Ta’zim II 1-0; Perak bt Terengganu T-Team 1-0.
Penang drew with Police 1-1; Sabah bt Malacca 3-1; Negri Sembilan bt Kuala Lumpur 1-0; Kedah drew with PKNS SC 1-1; Kelantan bt Felda United FC 2-1.
Johor Darul Ta’zim II vs Terengganu T-Team (UTM Stadium, Skudai, 4.45pm)
Perak vs Pahang
(Perak Stadium, Ipoh, 4.45pm)
Terengganu vs Sarawak
(Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu, 4.45pm)
Perlis vs Selangor
(Tuanku Syed Putra Stadium, Kangar, 4.45pm)
Armed Forces vs Sime Darby FC
(Kementah Stadium, 4.45pm)
Kedah vs Kelantan
(Darulaman Stadium, 4.45pm).
Felda United FC vs Negri Sembilan
(MMU Mini Stadium, Cyberjaya, 4.45pm)
Kuala Lumpur vs Sabah
(Stadium Merdeka, 4.45pm)
Malacca vs Penang
(Hang Tuah Stadium, 4.45pm)
PKNS FC vs Police
(PKNS Sports Complex, 4.45pm)