THE complacent attitude of the young Penang Panthers may cost them their target to make it to the knock-out stage of the Presidents Cup.
They were expected to troop out with all three points against a struggling Kuala Lumpur but an indifferent performance saw them held to a 1-1 draw and having to settle for just a point instead.
Coach S. Veloo was furious and understandably, he held nothing back as he handed his young Panthers a dressing down at the field itself just moments after the match ended at the Universiti Sains Malaysia stadium on Wednesday.
“This was surely not the sort of performance I had expected of my Panthers,” said Veloo who had been handed the task of getting Penang to do better in the Presidents Cup tournament this season.
He said the players lacked urgency and were overconfident as they were taking on a side which was languishing at the bottom of the table.
“I saw this from their attitude at our training sessions before our assignment and had warned them not to take Kuala Lumpur for granted. My warning seemed to have fallen on deaf ears,” he added.
Veloo’s unhappiness is quite understandable as the draw could prove costly to Penang in their chase for a top four finish in Group B for a spot in the quarter-final stage.
Their current third place on the Group B League table is now under threat as rivals like PKNS FC and Felda United FC are close behind.
They have four more matches of the league season left, two of which are away against Kelantan and an unpredictable Felda United FC.
The other two matches will be played at home against an on-song Kedah and Negri Sembilan on the final day of the season on June 10.
The Panthers were earlier in second spot at the end of the first round of nine matches with 17 points, just four points behind league leader Kedah then.
After 14 outings and dropping precious points at home, the Panthers are now five points behind joint leaders Kedah and Police, the two unbeaten sides in the league who have 30 points from eight wins and six draws.
Taking things a little too easy in the match against Kuala Lumpur, the Panthers allowed a nothing-to-lose Kuala Lumpur side to consistently take shots at the Penang goal.
Only the poor finishing of Kuala Lumpur saved the Panthers the blushes.
Despite only managing to come away with sporadic raids, the Panthers trooped back to the dressing room with a half-time lead, thanks to the shaky goalkeeping of Kuala Lumpur’s Amirul Shafiq.
Amirul totally misjudged a volley attempt from Penang’s Premier League reserve striker Elias Sulaiman. The ball dipped right into goal to give the homesters a 27th minute lead.
Amirul continued with his bungling ways between the posts and it was not a surprise when Kuala Lumpur coach Razak Jaamadi quickly had him replaced with Mohamed Farith when they returned for the second half.
Kuala Lumpur drew level in the 71st minute when Muhamad Afzal Nazri, freed by a through pass from Mohamed Mazlan, tucked the ball beyond an outcharging Penang goalkeeper Mohamed Rahimy.
Although the Panthers came charging back to force their rivals into defence for long periods, they failed to regain their lead.
Striker Som Keat Praseart squandered their best chance when he failed to beat Mohamed Farith in a one-on-one situation two minutes into injury time.
RESULTS: (Matches played on Wednesday)
Group A: Perak bt Terengganu (3-2); Pahang bt Johor Darul Ta’zim II (3-1); Armed Forces bt Perlis (2-1); Selangor bt Sarawak (2-0); Terengganu T-Team bt Sime Darby (1-0).
Group B: Felda United FC bt Sabah (3-1); Kedah bt Negri Sembilan (1-0); Police bt Malacca (3-1); Penang drew Kuala Lumpur (1-1); Kelantan drew PKNS FC (3-3).
Terengganu T-Team vs Pahang
(Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu, 4.45pm)
Johor Darul Ta’zim vs Terengganu
(UTM Stadium, Skudai, 4.45pm)
Selangor vs Perak
(Kuala Selangor Mini Stadium, 4.45pm)
Sarawak vs Armed Forces
(State Stadium, Kuching, 4.15pm)
Sime Darby FC vs Perlis
(UKM Mini Stadium, 4.45pm).
Kelantan vs Negri Sembilan
(Sultan Mohamed IV Stadium, Kota Baru, 8.45pm)
Kedah vs Sabah
(Darulaman Stadium, Alor Setar, 4.45pm)
Felda United FC vs Penang
(MMU Mini Stadium, Cyberjaya, 4.45pm)
Kuala Lumpur vs Police
(Merdeka Stadium, 4.45pm)
PKNS FC vs Malacca
(PKNS Sports Complex, 4.45pm)