PETALING JAYA: A last minute tactical change by newly hired Penang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan paid off big time.
The Panthers finally secured their first win in the Super League following a stunning 2-1 win over Terengganu at the City Stadium on Wednesday.
Many had expected Terengganu to dominate as Penang’s key striker Casagrande had been ruled out following a cheekbone injury on the eve of the clash but the northern state pulled off a surprise.
Penang started well when they went ahead in the match through Lebanon striker Hilal El-Helwe in the 23rd minute.
Terengganu bounced back three minutes into the second half with an equaliser through national player Faisal Halim but their joy only lasted two minutes as Penang regained their lead with the winning goal from T. Saravanan.
Penang climbed one rung from bottom of the 12-team standings ahead of Sarawak on goal difference with seven points.
“I had to modify the team structure, especially on the attacking side, after we lost Casagrande at the last minute,” said Zainal.
“We knew Terengganu had good attacking force in Manuel Ott, Habib Haroon, Faisal Halim, Faiz Nasir, Kipre Tchetche dan Kpah Sherman.
“So, we had to keep an eye on these players. God willing, everyone carried out their duties well and showed strong determination to win three points,” said Zainal.
Zainal, who replaced Thomas Trucha, whose contract was terminated following a string of defeats early this month, admitted there were room for improvement.
“We’ve defended well as a team but we still lost possession.
“We will go through the photo and video analysis of last night’s match to understand the transition and the areas we need to strengthen,” he said.
Terengganu coach Nafuzi Zain admitted his team were slow off the starting block and took things easy especially in the first half.
“We tried to get back into the game after we drew level at 1-1 but the game changed. Penang scored again and rode on that momentum,” he said.
“There were many opportunities from Kpah and Kipre but the Penang defence played brilliantly.”
Terengganu maintained their position in seventh spot in the Super League with nine points.