KUANTAN: Coach Irfan Bakti is annoyed with the performance of striker Gustavo Romero and if he has his way, he will have a replacement for the Argentine to help Penang's campaign to qualify for next year's Super League without having to go through the playoffs.
A 1-2 defeat by Pahang at the Darulmakmur Stadium here on Saturday has placed Penang in deep waters and they are in danger of not getting among the top six teams, who gain automatic qualification to the eight-team Super League.
Romero, who was the top scorer of the team last season, has not been able to hit the right notes since he was stretchered out with a fractured jaw after a collision with Selangor goalkeeper Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz in the season-opening Charity Shield match, which Penang won 1-0.
Irfan was counting on Romero to deliver against Pahang after Hasmawi Hassan was left behind because of sore eyes. He turned out to be a mere passenger.
“I am very disappointed with Romero. I can only report him to the management. It is up to them to decide on his fate,” said Irfan.
“For now, I have no choice but to make the best use of Romero in our remaining matches. But if given a choice, it's better to terminate his contract and hire someone else.
“But we are not a rich team in a position to hire and fire players. We have to live with what we have.”
Irfan is also irked with his team's performance in away matches. Penang have only chalked up two away wins – against Johor FC (1-0) and Selangor (2-1).
The forwards' inept finishing continues to give Irfan a big headache. The team's leading scorer is midfielder R. Suresh, who has scored five goals. Strikers Hasmawi and Romero have four goals each.
“This is the sorry state of affairs with our strikers. On top of that, we continue to struggle in away matches. These are major causes for concern,” said Irfan.
Penang are sixth in table with 33 points but have played 22 matches – two more than fourth-placed Sabah (34 points), who they play against in Batu Kawan tomorrow.