GEORGE TOWN: Penang will keep their faith in under-fire Brazilian striker Alberto Goncalves when they take on Negri Sembilan in a rescheduled Premier League match at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi.
The 35-year-old Goncalves, fondly known as Beto, has drawn plenty of flak from the Penang fans for his wastefulness in front of goal.
A group of Penang supporters stayed behind following the Panthers’ 3-0 win over UiTM FC at the City Stadium last Friday to protest against the team management’s reluctance to ditch the misfiring Brazilian, who has just scored two goals so far.
But Penang coach Jacksen Tiago insists that his compatriot is capable of redeeming himself.
“I agree with the fans (complaining about Beto) because I watch the same games too,” said Tiago.
“I know Beto well as a person and player, and I know he’s trying his best to impress everybody. The problem is that he’s trying too hard at the moment, and when things don't work out, the concentration and confidence go down. But I know that he gives his best at all times, and I’m confident he can redeem himself.”
Tiago feels that it is not only Beto, but also the rest of the squad, who are feeling the pressure to deliver promotion this season.
“Expectations in Penang are very high. We knew before the start of the season that nothing less than a top-two finish will be acceptable.
“It’s my job as the coach to make the players relax and work towards achieving the top-two target. We have quality in the squad, but need to handle the pressure better and put in good performances,” said the Penang coach.
After briefly leading the Premier League table, Penang have dropped to fourth with 18 points after winning just one of their last three league matches.
A victory over Negri Sembilan in their match in hand tonight will see the islanders draw level on points with second-placed Kedah.
Penang will face Negri without regular defenders Reinaldo Lobo and Rafiuddin Rodin, who are both injured.
Negri Sembilan, who led the standings early in the campaign, have also slipped up and only won once in the last five games.
The Deer badly need a morale-boosting win over Penang to remain within striking distance of the leading contenders as they are now sixth with 14 points – nine behind pacesetters T-Team.