GEORGE TOWN: The battle for the Premier League title and the two Super League promotion spots will go down the wire.
Table-toppers Kedah blew their chance of an early qualification to the top tier after going down 0-2 to Negri Sembilan at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi on Friday.
Two second-half goals by Forkey Doe (73rd) and N. Thanabalan (82nd) condemned the Red Eagles to their second defeat of the season.
Despite the loss, Kedah still lead the standings on 42 points with two matches to go. The northern state remain favourites to win the title as they hold a three-point advantage over both Penang and T-Team (tied on 39 points).
Kedah’s remaining fixtures include against Sabah at home (Aug 18) and DRB-Hicom (Aug 21) away.
Penang were the biggest winners on Friday when they thumped Sabah 4-0 at the City Stadium to pip T-Team to second spot on goal difference. The Titans were earlier held to a 2-2 draw against UiTM FC at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca.
Goals from Elias Sulaiman (41st), Azinee Taib (48th, 73rd) and Faiz Subri (61st) ensured the islanders the second spot.
The Rhinos trailed 1-0 in the first-half but two blunders by Sabah goalkeeper Irwan Jamil after the break allowed Penang to put the game to bed.
"One week ago, we were feeling down and worried. But after three wins in a row and returning to second spot, we are feeling much better now," said Penang coach Jacksen Tiago.
"This is not the time to celebrate. We have not confirmed anything, yet. I will let my players enjoy this win for one day, after that we get back to work. There are still two matches to play and the players need to maintain the focus to get us into the Super League."
Penang’s last two matches are against DRB-Hicom at home (Aug 18) and UiTM FC away (Aug 21).
T-Team have themselves to blame for throwing away a four-point lead over Penang in the space of two matches.
Uzbek midfielder Sadriddin Abdulaev (35th, 54th) fired a brace for T-Team, only for the varsity side to share the spoils through Mohamad Syafiq (42nd) and Aiman Syazwan (52nd).
T-Team now need to better Penang's results in their last two matches against the league's bottom two teams SPA Putrajaya and Kuantan FA.
Following Friday's matches, Kedah, Penang and T-Team have booked their places in the 16-team Malaysia Cup competition.
The fourth and final Malaysia Cup spot from the Premier League is a toss-up between fourth placed PKNS FC (35 points) and Johor Darul Ta'zim II in fifth (30 points).
The top 10 Super League and top four Premier League teams win automatic slots to the Malaysia Cup competition. The bottom two of the Super League and the fifth and sixth placed team from the Premier League will vie in a playoff for the two spots.
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