GEORGE TOWN: On the eve of arguably their biggest match of the season, the Penang squad were rocked by the loss of influential Angolan forward Titi Buengo.
The Panthers will take on the Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) at the City Stadium on Saturday in their first Malaysia Cup home game in six years.
But K. Devan’s side will have to make do without the 34-year-old Buengo, who received tragic news of his father’s death and his mother in serious condition following a car crash in Paris on Wednesday.
“The entire Penang team were shocked by the sad news,” said Penang team manager Mohd Azizudin Shariff yesterday.
“Titi is a true professional as he was determined to play against JDT tomorrow. But we (the team officials) felt he is not in the right frame of mind and advised him to return home.
“We have vowed to go all out and get a good result against JDT for Titi.”
In Buengo’s absence, Brazilian Luiz Ricardo, a substitute against Kelantan, will lead the frontline.
Penang face a do-or-die situation against the fancied Group C leaders today after collecting just a point from the first two games. The islanders held Armed Forces to a 1-1 draw before going down 3-1 to Kelantan in Kota Baru on Tuesday.
Coach K. Devan is not losing too much sleep over the defeat in Kota Baru, and is already looking forward to the JDT game.
“Despite our inexperience playing at this level, Penang have stepped up a gear in the Malaysia Cup from our usual league performances,” said Devan.
“We put up a strong challenge against Kelantan and a 2-2 draw or a 2-1 defeat would have been a more justified result.”
Despite enjoying the favourites tag, high-flying JDT, who were held to a 0-0 draw by Armed Forces on Tuesday, will not be taking it easy in Penang today.
“I have seen recordings of Penang’s matches against Armed Forces and Kelantan, and believe me, they are no pushovers,” said JDT coach Bojan Hodak.
“This is also Penang’s first Malaysia Cup home game after several years, and the stadium will be packed. It will be a fantastic atmosphere and I am expecting a tough game.”
Unbeaten JDT currently lead the group on four points, just three points ahead of bottom-placed Penang.
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