GEORGE TOWN: Penang midfielder Lee Gil-hoon has gone from an idol to an outcast in just one year.
The 32-year-old South Korean was the fans’ favourite last year. He was Penang’s Player of the Season and top scorer with 15 goals when the Panthers finished third in the Premier League.
This season, Gil-hoon has been used sparingly due to his poor form. There are also questions regarding his attitude in training, and commitment during matches.
Gil-hoon’s fall from grace was complete when he was left out of the squad in the 0-0 draw with league leaders Kedah in Alor Setar on Tuesday.
It looks likely that the former Suwon Bluewings player will not don the Penang jersey again this season.
Both head coach Jacksen Tiago and manager Mohd Azizudin Shariff refused to go on record to explain Gil-hoon’s no-show in Alor Setar.
“I don’t want to comment about him. It is an internal problem, and we will deal with it internally,” said Tiago.
But the Brazilian was quick to stress Penang’s improved fighting spirit against Kedah in the Korean’s absence. The Panthers held Kedah at bay despite playing almost an hour with 10 men after centreback Mat Saiful Mohamad was sent off.
It was a far cry from their meek display in the 0-2 loss to lowly Kuala Lumpur at the Merdeka Stadium last Friday.
“This is the kind of performances that I expect from my players. Everyone on the field played their hearts out despite being a player short.
“Everyone needs to be united in the team. I hope we can take advantage of the performance against Kedah to push forward and win promotion to the Super League,” said Tiago.
The draw extended Penang’s winless run to four matches. The islanders dropped to fourth on 30 points, behind PKNS FC on goal difference.
With five games remaining, Kedah lead the standings on 36 points, two ahead of T-Team.
Kedah coach Tan Cheng Hoe refused to be downcast by the stalemate, which followed the 1-1 home draw against PKNS last Friday.
“It was a missed opportunity, especially when playing against 10 men. But I’m happy with the performance. We dropped four points at home, and all against the top four teams in contention for promotion. I feel it is important we did not lose to them,” said Cheng Hoe.
“The other results have gone Kedah’s way. We are still on top. We are still on course for promotion and the league title.”
Tomorrow, Kedah face Kuala Lumpur in Alor Setar while Penang hit the road again to take on Johor Darul Ta’zim II in Pasir Gudang.