GEORGE TOWN: Troubled Penang will ditch two of their under-performing foreign players when the mid-season transfer window opens in June.
The islanders remain in the relegation zone after the 3-2 home loss to Terengganu FC II in the Super League on Sunday.
The east coast club surged to a 2-0 half-time lead with goals by Asrol Ibrahim and Patrick Cruz. Penang clawed back through two second-half goals by Reinaldo Lobo and Osas Ikpefua.
Terengganu FC II, however, had the last laugh as Cruz netted the winner three minutes from the end.
Team manager Mohd Azizudin Shariff blamed the insipid foreign players as the main reason for Penang’s poor showing.
“In the recent two defeats against Selangor (1-0) and Terengganu FC II, we could match our opponents in all aspects except one – our imports were inferior,” complained Azizudin.
“The team management will make changes when the transfer window opens. At least two of our four foreigners will be replaced.”
The team management are blaming Brazilian coach Jacksen Tiago, who was “rested” by Penang earlier this month, for recommending the purchase of the dud imports. Manzoor Azwira, Tiago’s former assistant, is now in charge of the team.
It’s no secret that the Football Association of Penang (FAP) are unhappy with Nigerian striker Ikpefua and Australian defender Brent Griffiths.
Although Ikpefua has scored four goals for Penang, he has been guilty of wasting many golden chances and repeatedly fumbled in one-on-one situations.
Injury-prone Griffiths is also on his way out after spending more time on the treatment table than on the pitch since joining Penang this season.
Besides the pair, Penang’s other two foreign signings are Brazilian defender Reinaldo Lobo and Argentine midfielder Mathias Cordoba.
However, the changes could come too late to save Penang from missing out on the Malaysia Cup.
New rules state that the bottom-placed Super League team at the halfway mark will not qualify for the Malaysia Cup this season.
With two more first-round games remaining, Penang are only ahead of bottom-placed Sarawak on goal difference. Six-point Penang have only won one of their nine matches.
The bad news for the Panthers is that their remaining first-round fixtures are against the league’s No. 1 Felda United and No. 2 Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).
“Penang are in a dangerous position. We need to do everything we can in the next two matches to ensure we qualify for the Malaysia Cup,” said Manzoor.
“On paper, it may look a tough task against the league’s top two teams. But the players must continue to show their fighting spirit. If we are able to overcome our goal-scoring problems, then anything is possible.”
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