The City Boys’ wait for a proper Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration lingers further following the disappointment in the capitulation of our 1-2 reverse to S Pahang during their visit to Cheras last Saturday in the Super League. We dropped to seventh in the standings, allowing the east coast side to climb over us, and are tied with them, Petaling Jaya C and Melaka Utd on 7 points. Yet again we were left wondering how it went all wrong that night. We had our fair share of chances to win, perhaps the lion’s share of it but again Lady Luck deserted us for the second game in succession. The latest loss marked the second time this season that we fall to back to back defeats. The last time this occurred (Kedah DA & Johor DT), the team responded with our only wins of the campaign so far with victories over Melaka Utd and Sabah. Let us hope for a similar reaction tonight when we play bottom of the table Penang FC, for Mission Aidilfitri Part 2!
The Panthers are struggling to recapture the form that saw them finish last season’s Super League in the third position, beyond anyone’s expectations, especially after promotion as Premier League champions. Their problems began at the tail end of 2021 when injuries decimated the club’s Malaysia Cup challenge, and the close season saw an overhaul of more than half their squad who left for greener pastures. Tomas Trucha, the Czech head coach who led them to dizzying heights in the previous campaign has been rested after only 6 matches this year, the second head coach to be removed following Melaka Utd’s decision to terminate Risto Vidakovic, in mid-April. His assistant Manzoor Azwira takes over in a caretaker role, the second time he has done so for his childhood team, after a similar position in 2016. In 2019, he replaced Ahmad Yusoff as head coach and led them to third place in the Premier League, missing out on promotion following a six-point penalty by FIFA. He is a known quantity to City Boys’ head coach Bojan during their time together at Penang, and the Croatian recently mentioned that Manzoor shares a similar style of football that he deploys. The City Boys are the first opponent for the new coach, and Manzoor will be looking to rejuvenate a squad down in the dumps, much like what Asri Ninggal has done with the Hang Tuah’s. Penang remains the only team in the top flight still searching for a win, but they are no pushovers despite what their basement status may suggest. They began 2022 with a narrow 0-1 defeat away to champions Johor DT, who needed a late goal to overcome the Panthers, and following that, settled for three consecutive 1-1 draws against Melaka Utd, Sarawak Utd and Negeri Sembilan in which they should have won the latter two, before recent losses against Kedah DA (1-2) and S Pahang (1-3), generated plenty of anger, pressure and protests from their fans, eventually forcing Trucha out on ‘security reasons as advised by the Police’. They do possess players that can pose problems upfront, especially Brazillian Anselmo Arruda Da Silva fondly known as Casagrande, who scored 12 goals in the league last season and is good in the air, as well as versatile forward Lebanese Hilal El-Helwe. Defender Rafael Vitor Santos, also from Brazil, is good with freekicks, and they do have Faiz Subri, the 2016 FIFA Puskas Award winner to count upon from distance. Midfielder Daniel Ashraf is lively on the pitch and Saravanan Thirumurugan has paced down the flanks to cause trouble as an impact player. Arriving from Sabah, goal-scoring midfielder Azzizan Nordin, and former Perak goalkeeper Hafizul Hakim, are amongst their top local acquisitions this year. Completing their foreign legion is yet another product of the Jogo Bonito nation, Endrick Dos Santos in midfield and Filipino-Italian defender Christian Rontini. There is also a KL-lite connection in Penang, with dependable custodian Khatul Anuar, who has been in excellent form this year, and forward Azim Rahim joining them. Six of the nine goals they have conceded so far, came near the mid-point of the second half. Open situations have been a problem for them, letting in six goals so far this season, with the other three coming from two penalties and corners. However, they will have the advantage of a long rest and time for Manzoor to prepare his squad and propagate his ideas to lift them off the bottom
Bojan has a full squad at his disposal, except Azri G., who should feature in the national Under-23’s next match in Group B, tomorrow (Wednesday, 11/5/2022) against Laos at the South East Asian (SEA) Games in Vietnam. Enough has been said, the City Boys just need to get our act together.
Saturday’s clash will be the 15th time both teams meet each other since the beginning of the Super League & Premier League divisions in 2004, and the City Boys edge the overall head to head record with 6 wins against the Panthers’ 5, while 3 matches have ended in ties. In 2021, we faced them four times, twice coming out tops in Cheras; Paulo Josue’s hattrick against the northerners buried them 3-1 in the league, avenging Penang’s 1-0 win on the first day of the season, and Romel got us the points during the Malaysia Cup group stages, a penalty winner at home for 1-0, and before that, some last action heroics to rescue a point for a 1-1 draw in Georgetown. The Sky Blue And Yellow side last tasted victory in Kuala Lumpur, 14 years ago, when Rosli Azizan struck the winner after a quarter of an hour in the Malaysia Cup group stage. Due to contrasting fortunes in the Malaysian League, we did not meet others in 11 of the 18 seasons since the new era began, in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 to 2014, 2016 to 2018.
Izreen who is recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee remains the only player in the City Boys treatment room, while Azri G. is away with the national Under-23 team for the 31st SEA Games, at least until the end of the group stages on May 16, 2022.
The Super League Match Day 8 fixture between Kuala Lumpur City and Penang is on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at 8.15 pm (2015hrs), at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium, Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras.
Tickets for the Super League match against Pahang are available at the following link, https://www.tickethotline.com.my/
For Season Ticket Holders (B2 City Boys), enjoy direct access for purchase through the Club without the hassle and limitations of the online system (Contact Shamim for details).