LAST year’s finalists Penang are in danger of missing the cut for the quarter-finals of the President’s Cup 2016 competition.
With four games left, the young Panthers are in sixth position in Group B with 16 points.
Only the top four teams from the group will progress to the knockout stage.
The group’s top two sides T-Team and Perak (both on 28 points) are almost assured of qualification, leaving the others to fight for the remaining two berths to the quarter-finals.
Penang muffed a golden opportunity to move up into the top four after suffering a meek 0-2 defeat to Pahang at the City Stadium in George Town on Monday. It was the islanders’ sixth defeat in 14 matches.
The win over Penang allowed Pahang to rise into third spot with 20 points.
More importantly, Pahang and fourth-placed Selangor (19 points) have played two matches fewer than the teams around them in the standings.
Against Pahang, Penang enjoyed more possession of the ball, but lacked ideas to open up their opponents in the final third of the pitch.
The home side’s best chance to open the scoring arrived in the 33rd minute.
Syamer Kutty Abba had a clear view of goal but saw his attempt and the subsequent rebound both blocked superbly by Pahang goalkeeper Nur Kamarullah.
Pahang grew in confidence as the match wore on and took the lead in the 66th minute.
Receiving a right wing cross from Zuhair Aizat, Zul Hafiz Zulkifli delivered a volley which swerved beyond Penang goal- keeper Abdul Gafur Samsudin’s reach before nestling in the net.
Despite going a goal behind, the Penang players failed to rouse themselves and were further punished by Pahang in the 83rd minute.
Off a quick counter attack, Pahang winger Sharul Nizam raced into the Penang penalty area before firing a low shot past Gafur into the far corner of the net.
A shell-shocked Penang coach Kamal Khalid admitted the defeat has badly dented hopes ofprogressing into the last eight.
“Our chances are very slim now. We are throwing away points while the teams ahead of us are pulling away in the standings.
“I am frustrated with the players’ performance against Pahang. It was our worst game this season.
“I am at a loss to explain why they did not play according to instructions,” said a dejected Kamal.
The only good news for Penang is that three of their remaining four matches are at home against Kuala Lumpur (Aug 4), Police (Aug 8) and Selangor (Aug 18).
Their only away match is against Sabah in Kota Kinabalu on Aug 11.
In Group A, Kelantan, Tereng-ganu and JDT III seem sure betsto qualify for the quarter-finals, leaving Felda United, Kedah and Negri Sembilan to fight it out for the one remaining berth.
There will be a two-month break for the President’s Cup competition in June and July to accommodate the fasting month and the national teams’ assignments.
Group A: Kelantan 1 Kedah 3, Terengganu 0 N. Sembilan 1,JDT III 0 UiTM FC 0, Felda United 1 Perlis 0.
Group B: Sabah 1 Police 0, PKNS 0 T-Team 0, Perak 3 Malacca 1, Penang 0 Pahang 2.
Group A: 1. Kelantan 32 pts, 2. Terengganu 29, 3. JDT III 28,4. Felda United 24, 5. Kedah 23,6. N. Sembilan 19, 7. Sarawak 14,8. UiTM FC 14, 9. Perlis 9, 10. Armed Forces 1.
Group B: 1. T-Team 28 pts, 2. Perak 28, 3. Pahang 20, 4. Selangor 19, 5. Police 18, 6. Penang 16, 7. PKNS 15, 8. Kuala Lumpur 15, 9. Sabah 14, 10. Malacca 12.