PETALING JAYA: All is not well for battle-weary Perak who are struggling to fend off relegation from the Super League.
On Tuesday, caretaker coach Shahril Nizam Khalil could do little to stop Perak from a 5-3 beating by Penang in his first match in charge at the Perak Stadium in Ipoh.
It was Perak’s third loss in four matches since the league resumed on July 24, leaving them second-last in the 12-team standings with 13 points.
To add to their misery, they also conceded a whopping 15 goals during this period as they were also handed 5-0 thrashings by Terengganu and JDT. They drew 0-0 with Kuala Lumpur.
Perak’s dismal run prompted the management to “rest” their head coach Chong Yee Fatt on Monday and put his deputy Shahril in charge.
From the whistle Perak were in trouble as Penang stunned them with two quick goals from towering Brazillian centreback Rafael Vitor in the first eight minutes, including the opening strike netted 10 seconds after the kick-off.
Ghanaian striker Nana Poku (pic)pulled one back for the home side in the 16th minute but Perak’s defence proved to be porous as Casagrande and Vitor made it 4-1 with their respective goals in the 21st and 28th minute.
To Perak’s credit, they fought back and were rewarded after Poku converted from the spot twice in the 36th and 58th minute.
Their hunt for an equaliser, however, proved futile. Instead, Abdul Azim Rahim put the match beyond doubt for the visitors in the 88th minute for a 5-3 win.
Shahril admitted that his team have a mountain to climb in their remaining five matches, starting with the next away game against fellow strugglers UiTM on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a challenge to motivate the players especially after the demoralising defeat,” said Shahril.
“They gave absolutely everything, they fought and scored and yet lost the match.
“I can’t fault these players’ effort. They really played for the team and this explains why some of them broke down in tears after the match.”
However, Shahril has refused to give up without a fight and vowed to lead Perak out of trouble.
Perak, who won the league back in 2002 and 2003, have never dropped out of the top-flight competition before.
“Pressure is surely there. But I’m relishing it,” he said.
“We still have a chance mathematically, there’s no reason to throw in the towel just yet.
For Penang, the win sent them to third spot above Kedah who have played three fewer matches.
But coach Thomas Trucha said there’s nothing to be excited about.
“For me, the most important thing is where we are placed when the season ends. Right now, all teams are not playing the same number of matches (due to scheduling), so it doesn’t reflect the actual league position.”