ALOR STAR: A goal three minutes into injury time by Australian striker James Monie gave Kedah a 1-0 win over Penang in a Premier I match at the Darulaman Stadium here last night.
And the victory put the Kedah on top of the table in the 13-team league on better goal difference than defending champions Perak, who drew 1-1 with Sarawak in Kuching. Both teams have 30 points from 15 matches.
When it appeared as though Penang would steal a point off the match, Monie, freed by Akmal Rizal, beat goalkeeper Megat Amir Faisal with a stiff grounder to send the near capacity crowd delirious.
Coach Jorgen Larsen kept to his word in not starting with striker Akmal. The Dane was also forced to leave out Monie's co-striker Amirul Mahadzir, who was injured in a motorcycle accident. He had to opt for attacking midfielder Manzoor Azwira instead.
Penang brought the fight to Kedah and came close to scoring a first-minute goal. Argentine Gustavo Romero beat defender A. Victor and managed to evade charging keeper Mazlan Wahid as well. But he bolted the ball over the Kedah goal.
The Canaries soon settled down and had the Panthers under pressure each time they stepped on the gas in their raids down the flanks.
The crosses kept coming in and Megat Amir had his hands full in keeping Kedah at bay. Perhaps his save of the day was the tipping over of a cracking left-foot attempt by Monie in the 27th minute.
Over at the other end, Mazlan was forced to dig deep into this experience to keep Penang out in the 37th minute, stopping a header from point-blank range by R. Suresh Kumar.
With Kedah still drawing blanks, Larsen sent in Akmal and the speedy Liew Kit Kong for Manzoor and G. Shanmugam respectively in the 60th minute.
Kedah continued to dominate and it nearly paid off nine minutes later. But Akmal's shot, which had Megat Amir beaten, went wide. But Monie got it right for Kedah at the stroke of full time.
Kedah: Mazlan Wahid, A. Victor, Andrew Clarke, Mohd Rizal Harun, Mohd Fauzi Nan, Shariman Che Omar, Zainuddin Ariffin, Ooi Hoe Guan, Manzoor Azwira (Akmal Rizal), G. Shanmugam (Liew Kit Kong), James Monie.
Penang: Megat Amir Faisal, Chow Chee Weng, Chee Wan Hoe, Geoff Dwyer, Ng Kok Heng (Zulhissyam Jamaluddin), Nordin Kamis, Zailani Jaafar, R. Suresh Kumar, Hasmawi Hassan (Azni Ariffin), Wan Rohaimi Ismail, Gustavo Romero.