GEORGE TOWN: Penang upset the form books and threw the contest in the Malaysia Cup Group D wide open after smashing defending champions Pahang 4-1 at the City Stadium.
A brace from Failee Ghazli (38th, 47th minutes) and two goals in the final 10 minutes by Azinee Taib (81st) and substitute Alberto Goncalves (84th) re-ignited Penang’s hopes of a top-two finish in the group.
With PKNS and Police only playing on Monday, the first win in three matches lifted Penang to second in Group D on four points. They are just two points behind leaders Pahang.
The Elephants, who came into last night’s match at the City Stadium with a maximum six points from two games, were surprisingly out-of-sorts and only had Dickson Nwakaeme’s 41st-minute headed goal to show for their efforts.
It was the winless Penang who looked more dangerous early on.
Midfielder Lee Gil-hoon, back in favour after being dropped for loss of form towards the end of the Premier League campaign, came the closest to breaking the deadlock with a close range effort in the 21st minute.
The South Korean was at the heart of most of Penang’s attacks. Pahang defender Damion Stewart was lucky to escape with just a yellow card in the 29th minute when he sent Gil-hoon tumbling in full flight just outside the penalty box.
Pahang should have gone ahead in the 35th minute when Nwakaeme and fellow forward Azammuddin Akil combined well to set up R. Gopinathan.
But the national player’s side-footed effort flew wide off Ramezey Che Ros’ goal.
Instead, it was the Panthers who broke the deadlock off a quick counter-attack in the 38th minute. Winger Azinee Taib threaded a perfect through ball for Failee to latch on. The Penang player coolly slotted it past the out-rushing Pahang goalkeeper Nasril Nourdin.
Penang’s joy was shortlived as Pahang hit back just three minutes later.
Nigerian forward Nwakaeme, kept under wraps by the efficient Reinaldo Lobo for much of the game, managed to shake off his Brazilian marker to get to the end of a Zesh Rehman cross and bury a powerful header past Ramezey.
Penang started the second half with a bang as they went ahead for the second time in the 47th minute.
Failee was the islanders’ hero again as he met Hilton Moreira’s free-kick with a well-placed header to beat Nasril.
Pahang stepped up a gear and Ramezey was forced to produce a brilliant double save to thwart Nwakaeme and Azammuddin during a goalmouth melee just before the hour mark.
Ramezey had to be at his best again 13 minutes from the end when he produced a one-handed save to push the ball around the upright from a close range Nwakaeme header.
The misses proved costly for Pahang as, with nine minutes to go, Azinee beat the offside trap before lifting the ball over Nasril.
Goncalves hit the final nail on Pahang’s coffin three minutes later with a close range header to send the more than 6,000 home supporters into a frenzy.