Penang again put in a strong second half display in the Malaysia Cup, but JDT’s Super League class shone through for an important away victory
BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
What a return this would be. Penang’s City Stadium hosted its first Malaysia Cup match since 2009, and the opponents? None other than the recent Super League champions, Johor Darul Ta’zim, and their entourage of national and international stars.
The visitors were boosted by the return of Amri Yahyah following a two-match suspension, while Penang were hampered by the absence of their imposing Angolan striker, Titi Buengo, who returned to France for family reasons.
JDT immediately put their opponents under pressure, and it wasn’t uncommon to see all eleven Penang players stuck in their own half. However, it took eight minutes before goalkeeper G. Jeevananthan was called into action, having to react quickly to catch a flick from Amri after an initial fumble.
Just like in the game against Kelantan, Penang were unable to cope with JDT’s tempo and sustain possession, due to heavy pressing by their attackers. Their pressure paid off in the 14th minute, as Amri marked his return with a glancing header from Safiq Rahim’s corner that nestled in the top corner, to put his team ahead. Before the Panthers even regained their composure, JDT struck again. This time, it was Safiq who side-footed a low cross from the right flank past Jeevananthan. Two goals, three minutes, and Penang had the stuffing knocked right out of them.
The first half continued in much the same pattern, and JDT even had two goals disallowed for offside. Right before half-time, Figueroa met a cross by Safiq with a bullet header from point-blank range, drawing a brilliant reaction stop by Jeevananthan.
A minute later, Penang conjured their best move of the night via a quick counter-attack by Lee Gil-Hoon and Luiz Ricardo involving several one-twos. JDT’s defenders were drawn out of position, and just as it seemed Gil-Hoon had a clear shot at goal, Marcos Antonio recovered in time to block.
Rejuvenated, the home team continued where they left off as the second half began, with Rafiuddin Roddin cutting inside to unleash a curling effort just over Izham Tarmizi’s bar. Zharif Hasna was introduced before the break, and he blazed a shot high over the bar after a promising Penang attack. Elias Sulaiman and Luiz also skied their efforts soon after, as the tables were turned on JDT.
It wasn’t long before Penang made the breakthrough. Seconds after Bojan Hodak introduced Jorge Diaz and Shakir Shaari, Gil-Hoon received a pass from Elias, feinted, and held off Aidil Zafuan before finishing past Izham for his 16th goal of the season.
Celebratory fireworks lit up the sky, and JDT took advantage of that distraction to hit back almost immediately, as Diaz converted Amri’s right-wing cross to restore his side’s two-goal cushion just seconds after losing it.
Jeevananthan had to push a long-range shot from Nazrin past the post soon after, but Lee Gil-Hoon continued to be a thorn in JDT’s side with his tricky runs at goal. Another fine feint and shot in the 76th minute drew a good save from Izham, and he was close to tapping in a flick across goal by Azizan Baba minutes later.
K. Devan introduced a striker for his left-back to chase another goal, but JDT threatened late on with efforts by Nazrin and Diaz that were well-saved by Jeevananthan.
It finished 3-1 to the Super League champions, but Penang will again win plaudits for their spirited second half display. If only they could play like that from the starting whistle…