THE young Penang Panthers severely dented Kedah’s pride by ending their 15-match unbeaten run in an ill-tempered northern derby.
Penang more than edged a 10-man Kedah when they carved out a deserving 1-0 win at the Universiti Sains Malaysia Stadium in a crucial Group B clash in the President’s Cup League recently.
They floored Kedah off the top table seat and although they are still stagnated in third spot on the League table to trail behind new League leader Police by two points, they are now on par with Kedah at 31 points.
The closely contested derby, which saw both teams producing offensive displays right from the word go, was marred by one fracas too many midway into the second half.
A rough tackle by Penang Youth Cup striker Mohamad Faisal Abdul Halim on Kedah’s Mohamad Aliff Mohd Puat in the 68th minute saw the latter retaliating in a violent manner despite referee Shahrudin Man flashing the yellow card at Mohamad Faisal moments earlier.
So, when Mohamad Aliff retaliated the way he did, Shahrudin had no choice but to dig into his pocket for the red card and send him off.
With the Kedah bench strongly irritated by Shahrudin’s decision, trouble threatened to spread to the bench as well with officials from both sides involved in a heated argument. Had it not been for the timely intervention of the numerous FA of Penang officials on duty at the stadium, the fracas could have gone out of hand.
Kedah coach Abdullah Muhammad, who had been highly abusive of the match officials throughout the match, did not get away unnoticed. His persistence in open criticism of match officials saw Shahrudin banishing the coach to the stands as well.
Abdullah was lucky that Shahrudin acted no further when he opted to defy that order by just staying away behind the Kedah bench instead.
Officials from the Penang FA, fearing the visiting Kedah fans could turn unruly as well, left nothing to chance by bringing in the FRU to help maintain order.
The match officials were subsequently escorted out of the stadium under the heavy protection of FRU personnel on duty as the Kedah fans, dissatisfied with the eventual defeat, hurled insults at the officials.
Until that unfortunate incident, the match proved to be an interesting contest with both teams trying to outwit each other’s defence in search of an early lead.
Kedah was the first to look good to make it happen as early as the 10th minute when Mohd Irwan Syazmin managed to beat Penang keeper Mohamed Azrin to the ball, only to see his goal-bound shot turned away from the goal line by Penang defender Tunku Noor Hidayat.
Over at the other end, it was Penang’s turn to look threatening three minutes later but a cracking grounder attempt from Mohamad Azrul Ahmad was stopped in a nick of time by an already sprawled Kedah goalkeeper Mohd Ifwat.
Kedah had another great opportunity to draw first blood in the 27th minute.
This time, it was striker Adam Iskandar who was left frustrated as, despite successfully snapping onto a weak goal kick and volleying it over an outcharging Mohd Azrin, his attempt unbelievably bounced over an unguarded Penang goal to the dismay of the Kedah bench.
To add insult to injury, Kedah was left trailing at the stroke of half-time. A cracking right-footer from Penang’s Amirul Syazni appeared handled by Kedah’s Mohamed Aliff inside the box for Shahrudin to immediately point to the penalty spot.
Tunku Noor, who stepped up to take responsibility for the penalty attempt, made no mistake as he confidently buried the ball home to give Penang a priceless lead at the breather.
Although Kedah came charging back in the second half in search of the equaliser, the Penang defence played with true grit as they firmly turned away all the insults hurled at them.
Thus when Kedah fell into numerical disadvantage in the 68th minute, the pressure was considerably off Penang’s chest, making that lone Tunku Noor strike the all-important one at the end ofthe day.
“Being a northern derby, it automatically made this outright win important,” said Penang coach S. Veloo, who was all smiles when the final whistle went off.
“I have always wanted to troop out a winner when it comes to a derby clash.
“But what further spiced up the occasion was this win virtually confirming us our initial target of making the cut to the quarter-finals.”
Group A: Perak bt Armed Forces (7-0); Selangor bt Johor Darul Ta'zim II (1-0); Terengganu bt Terengganu T-Team (5-0); Sarawak bt Perlis (3-2); Pahang bt Sime Darby FC (2-1);
Group B: Police bt Felda United FC (4-3); Penang bt Kedah (1-0); Sabah drew Kelantan (2-2); Malacca drew Kuala Lumpur (1-1); Negri Sembilan drew PKNS FC(2-2).
Group A: Pahang vs Terengganu (MPK Ground, Kuantan, 4.45 pm)
Terengganu T-Team vs Selangor (Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu, 4.45pm)
Johor Darul Ta'zim III vs Armed Forces (UTM Stadium, Skudai, 4.45pm)
Perak vs Perlis (Perak Stadium, Ipoh, 4.45pm)
Sime Darby FC vs Sarawak (UKM Mini Stadium, 4.45pm)
Negri Sembilan vs Sabah (Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium, Paroi, 4.45pm)
Kelantan vs Penang (Sultan Mohamad IV Stadium, Kota Baru, 8.45pm)
Kedah vs Police (Darulaman Stadium, Alor Star, 4.45pm)
Felda United FC vs Malacca (MMU Mini Stadium, Cyberjaya, 4.45pm)
PKNS FC vs Kuala Lumpur (PKNS Sports Complex, 4.45pm)