Debutant goalkeeper Khairul Amri Sallehuddin will retain his starting place for Penang after winning praises in the Panthers’ 1-0 Premier League win over UiTM FC.
The 24-year-old Khairul, Perak’s second choice custodian last year, was making his first appearance in the Panthers’ starting 11 in place of the out-of-favour G. Jeevananthan.
Jeeva, the former Selangor and Armed Forces goalkeeper, received plenty of flak from fans over his performance in the 5-1 thrashing by Police a fortnight ago.
Khairul put in a solid shift against the university team at the City Stadium on Friday, and delivered a clean sheet for Penang.
“I will keep faith with Khairul for our next match against Perlis on Monday. He was confident between the posts and did enough to convince me that he deserves his starting place,” said Penang coach K. Devan.
“I made several changes, especially in defence, to face UiTM. There was a marked improvement in the performance but we still lived dangerously in the second half, after failing to get the second goal to kill off the tie. I will likely maintain this winning line-up for our next game.”
South Korean midfielder Lee Kil-hoon scored the only goal of the match from a freekick in the 11th minute. The win helped the islanders move up to fifth with six points from three games and, more importantly, get over the demoralising defeat against Police.
“I consider our heavy loss against Police as a one-off bad performance. It is not fair to single out one or two players for criticism as the entire team played badly that day.
“By bouncing back against UiTM, we put the defeat behind us and restored the team’s confidence. This win is for the fans and the FAP (Football Association of Penang), who gave us full support when we were down,” said Devan.
Besides Khairul, another player who featured the full 90 minutes for the first time was Angolan forward Titi Buengo.
Although the towering striker failed to score, Devan was happy with Buengo’s contribution.
“I did not start Titi before this as he was not match fit when he joined us. He was brilliant against UiTM, especially in the first half. He looked tired in the final 20 minutes but I’m confident he’ll get better with more matches under his belt.”
For UiTM, the first defeat in three matches leaves them in seventh spot on four points. They are now five points behind leaders Police, who maintained their 100% start to the season with a 1-0 home win over Sabah.
Sabah are one of three teams, together with DRB-Hicom and Perlis, without any points after three rounds of Premier League matches.