PENANG: The Charity Shield is in the bag for Penang but it came with a price.
Argentine striker Gustavo Romero has been sidelined for six weeks after receiving a knee in the face during a collision with Selangor goalkeeper Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz.
“Romero has been admitted to the hospital and an initial check-up revealed that he has a fractured jawbone and needs to sit out the action for at least six weeks,” coach Irfan Bakti revealed yesterday.
Irfan, however, is not too worried.
“Although Romero's absence can be considered a big blow for Penang, I will not lose much sleep over it as I have other options in the squad to fill up the forward line,” he said.
Besides Hasmawi Hassan and former Terengganu striker Wan Rohaimi Wan Ismail, Irfan can also call on S. Gopinath, who came in for Romero in Sunday's match, to lead the attack.
Irfan was particularly happy with his defenders who gave the Selangor players very little room to move but noted that the other players needed to stay focused for the full duration of the match.
Irfan has now set his sights on the one trophy which has been eluding him - the Malaysia Cup.
Since taking over the helm of the Panthers in 2000, Irfan has won the Premier I, FA Cup and the shield to be just one title short of a clean sweep.
However, the former Negri Sembilan coach will have to wait another six months before getting the opportunity to satisfy his hunger. The Malaysia Cup competition only begins in August.
“It was nice to add another silverware to the cupboard and earn three league points at the same time but our main target for the year is still to clinch the Malaysia Cup.”
“But since the Malaysia Cup competition will only start in the later part of the year, we will have to ensure we stay focused in the league and the defence of the FA Cup at the moment,” said Irfan.
On the Charity Shield match which Penang won 1-0, Irfan said: “I pushed (centreback) Geoff Dwyer to shore up the midfield in the second half after it became apparent that the new players were overcautious in protecting the one-goal lead.”
“Despite being promising in the pre-season friendlies, the players could have been unnerved by the atmosphere of a competitive match. I believe this problem will be solved once they get a few matches under their belts,” commented Irfan.
Besides Gopinath, the other rookie who was given a run out on Sunday was M. Prakash.