Still struggling with set-pieces

T-Team defenders Naqib Najwan (left) and Azalinullah Alias closing down on Penang’s Nabil Ramlee during their President’s Cup match at the City Stadium.

THE Penang President’s Cup (Under-21) football team’s weakness in defending set-pieces reared its ugly head again during their 2-2 draw with Group B leaders T-Team at the City Stadium.

A week after conceding two goals from set-pieces during the 3-1 defeat to lowly Pahang in Kuantan, the Penang side again conceded a goal from a corner set-piece against the Terengganu-based club side during their match on Thursday.

Penang had to twice come from behind to salvage the 2-2 draw, and their coach Kamal Khalid was not pleased with the two dropped points at home.

“After letting in the two set-piece goals against Pahang, we trained all week at cutting out the mistakes. But against T-Team, the players went back to their old habits.

“They failed to clear the ball away from the danger area following a corner when the scoreline was 1-1, and we got punished.

“We should have won the game against T-Team. But on hindsight, a draw is better than a defeat because we managed to draw level despite falling 2-1 behind so late in the game,” said Kamal.

Penang were sluggish from the start in a match played under a blistering afternoon sun. It was T-Team who settled down quickly with their fast paced approach.

The visitors wasted two clear chances to score by Zarulizwan Mazlan and Safawi Rasid in the opening 15 minutes.

But there was no stopping the marauding T-Team from scoring their opening goal in the 31st minute. Zarulizwan delivered an accurate cross from the left for the waiting Akram Asidi to sweep into goal.

The Penang players, who did not threaten T-Team goalkeeper Nik Amin Ahmad at all during the entire first half, displayed more attacking intent after the breather.

After several near misses, the home team found the equaliser in the 69th minute through Junaidi Shafiai’s close range volley.

T-Team missed a glorious chance to score in the 80th minute when Akram latched onto a weak back header by Penang captain Abdul Qayyum and lobbed the outrushing goalkeeper Hazrul Hafiz.

However, Qayyum atoned for his mistake by rushing back in time to hook the ball off the line.

There was no stopping Akram from scoring his second goal of the game just two minutes later. The Penang defenders failed to clear a corner, allowing the T-Team striker to stab home from close range.

T-Team’s joy was shortlived as Penang got back on level terms for the second time just two minutes later.

Nik Amin made a couple of sprawling saves to keep the ball out of his net during a goalmouth melee, but substitute Ramzee Othman was at hand to blast the rebound into the net and make it 2-2.

“Many of my Penang players were off form in the match. They made the mistake of following T-Team’s fast tempo, especially in the first half.

“It was only when we stopped imitating the opponents and played according to our own game pattern that we started to control the game,” added the Penang coach.

Despite the draw, T-Team still lead the Group B standings with 13 points from six matches. Penang, who have amassed eight points, remain in fifth spot.

Malacca, who drew 0-0 with PKNS on Thursday, currently occupy the fourth and final slot to the quarter-finals.Only the top four teams from the two groups will qualify for the knockout stage at the end of the league matches.

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