GEORGE TOWN: Penang are not ready to give up the fight yet despite facing an uphill task against title-holders Pahang in the FA Cup quarter-final second leg at the City Stadium on Wednesday night.
Early strikes by Mohd Hafiz Kamal and Dickson Nwakaeme in the opening 15 minutes were enough for the Elephants to seize a 2-0 advantage in the first leg in Kuantan a fortnight ago.
But Penang coach Jacksen Tiago believes the Premier League side are capable of rising to the challenge to create an upset.
“It will be very difficult, but not impossible to make up for the two-goal deficit,” said the Brazilian on Tuesday.
Penang are unbeaten at home this season, but Tiago feels playing in front of their passionate home fans alone will not be enough to see the Panthers through.
He is drawing strength from the islanders’ fighting display in the second half of the first leg, in which they dominated play. Penang were unlucky not to score at least a goal with South Korean Lee Gil-hoon and Brazilian Alberto Goncalves squandering gilt-edged chances.
“I’m not feeling we have a fighting chance because we’re playing at home. I am confident because of the way we’ve prepared for this game. The players are fully committed, and the experience gained from playing Pahang in the first leg will also come in handy. We now know what to expect from playing against a Super League team,” said Tiago.
Penang go into the FA Cup tie on the back of suffering a first Premier League defeat to Sabah in Kota Kinabalu last Friday. The Sabah game was preceded by Penang losing their top spot in the league after the away game to Negri Sembilan on April 12 was postponed due to bad weather.
But Tiago rubbishes talks of his players suffering a confidence crisis ahead of tonight’s game.
“I know there are people outside the team who talk and write negative things in the social media, especially following our defeat to Sabah. I am not disturbed by these things and it’s my job to ensure the team’s confidence is not affected. I can assure everyone that I have 24 players at my disposal who are mentally ready for the challenge (against Pahang).”
The only setback for Penang is their captain Redzuan Nawi will be suspended for Wednesday’s tie. Defender Darwira Sazan is expected to skipper the Panthers in the midfielder’s absence.