A GALLANT fight back was still not good enough to help the young Penang Panthers in their on-going challenge in the President Cup.
The Panthers, who were left behind by a two-goal deficit in the first half in their home clash against Sabah at the City Stadium in Penang, returned after the breather to win the hearts of their home supporters.
However, they failed to take advantage of their chances in the second half to record a victory.
Panthers coach Kamal Khalid although disappointed with the results, was still full of praises for his boys.
“Some of my boys have yet to fully recover from their injuries, but they insisted on playing. And that proved detrimental to our challenge, which was displayed in the first half,” he said.
The constant pressure from the Sabah boys saw the Penang defence caving in after 32 minutes.
Penang’s failure to keep Rusmanizan Roselan under check, saw him weave past at least two defenders before slotting the ball past a bewildered goalkeeper G. Thamotharan Naidu.
That triggered the Sabahans to continue their search for more goals. In one of the raids, Thamotharan failed to stop a seemingly harmless-looking header from Hafizan Jahar in the 43rd minute to give Sabah a 2-0 lead.
Penang did not take the setback lying down. Replacements were sent in, providing the team with fresh hope.
The pressure piled up with Penang strikers Amirul Syazani and Muhammad Junaidi Shafiai in full flight, and in the 58th minute it resulted in a goal.
A well-measured cross from the right by Abdul Qayyum Khan found Muhammad Junaidi lurking inside the six-yard box and his crushing header gave Sabah goalkeeper Rendy Robson Rinning no chance at all.
That was enough to fire up the Penang team and they found their elusive equaliser in the 72nd minute.
Rendy charged out of his line to check Penang’s Amirul but collided with defender Andy Roslan instead. The nippy hitman gleefully picked himself up and tucked the loose ball into a yawning Sabah goal to put Penang on the level.
Although Penang failed to make further headway afterwards, their biggest consolation after the recent encounter was knowing that the majority of the fixtures from Group B ended in a stalemate.
Penang will now entertain Terengganu T-Team, the only side to have carved out an outright win from the group, by beating Kuala Lumpur 2-0.
Although currently 10 points ahead and being just three points behind Perak, which is the fourth placed team, Penang can still make the cut to the knockout stage.
Group A: SSTMI 1 A. Forces 4; Perlis 1 Felda United FC 1; Selangor 1 Kedah 1; Sarawak 2 Terengganu 2.
Group B: T-Team 2 Kuala Lumpur 0; Malacca 0 Johor DT II 0; Perak 2 Pahang 2; Police 1 SSMP 1; Penang 2 Sabah 2.
Group A: Terengganu vs Kedah (Kompleks Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu, 4.45pm); Felda United FC vs Selangor (Petronas Mini Stadium, Bangi, 4.45pm); N. Sembilan vs Perlis (Stadium Tuanku Abdul Rahman, 4.45pm); A. Forces vs Kelantan (UPM Mini Stadium, Serdang, 4.45pm); Sarawak vs SSTMI (State Stadium, Kuching, 4.15pm).
Group B: SSMP vs Sabah (Malaysia Sports School Academy, Gambang, 4.45pm); Pahang vs Police (Darulmakmur Stadium, 4.45pm); Johor DT II vs Perak (Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium, 4.45pm); Kuala Lumpur vs Malacca (Kilat Club, 4.45pm); Penang vs PBDKT T-Team (Universiti Sains Malaysia A1, 4.45pm).