FAM LEAGUE:Clubside in pole position for promotion to Premier League
PUBLIC Service Commission (SPA) extended their lead in the FAM League to four points on Sunday after capitalising on a slip-up by Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) with a 1-0 win over Penang at the Batu Kawan Stadium.
Kuala Lumpur FA-affiliated SPA, who reached the FA Cup quarter-finals in a historic run, lead the race for the sole automatic promotion spot to the Premier League with 22 points after nine games as the second round of the FAM League kicked off.
PBAPP, in their maiden season in the FAM League, went 2-0 behind to lowly Melodi Jaya but recovered with two late goals to earn a point at the City Stadium in Georgetown.
Just a week earlier, PBAPP had romped past Melodi in Johor 5-0 but the stalemate allowed Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) to draw level with PBAPP after a 1-0 win over nine-man Sinar Dimaja Mai Sarah in Shah Alam.
Nursalam Zainal Abidin netted a 72nd-minute penalty after Adam Syahir Rosli was brought down in the box.
An out-of-sorts UiTM hung on to the lead despite SDM then having two men sent off for a morale-boosting win.
"We won with a penalty kick but the match itself was a little crappy. I was not happy with the performance of my team," said UiTM coach Azman Eusoff.
"The important thing was we won and the three points to close the gap with the top two teams."
Malacca's three-game winning run came to a screeching halt after being held to a 0-0 draw by Army at the Hang Tuah Stadium.
After accumulating 10 points, Malacca trail SPA by 12 and with just seven matches to go, appear resigned to a third consecutive season in the third-tier.
They do have a meeting with Penang to look forward to this Sunday in Batu Kawan where they hope to avenge a 1-0 defeat in the opening match of the season.
The matches between Malacca and Penang have taken on a historic note as the first meetings between two state sides since the FAM Cup was closed to state teams in 1974 and only clubs were allowed to compete.
From 1952 to 1973, the FAM Cup was second in importance only to the Malaysia Cup domestically.
Played on a knockout basis among state teams and Singapore, Armed Forces, Police and Prisons, the FAM Cup can be considered as a forerunner of the present-day FA Cup.
Penang were inaugural winners in 1952 when beating Selangor 5-0 in the final before going on to record a hat-trick of wins from 1955-57.
Malacca never won the tournament but made the final twice in 1957 and 1958.
The FAM Cup underwent a revamp in 1993 when a two-group league format preceded the knockout stage, which was eliminated in 2008 when the tournament was changed to a two-round league known currently as the FAM League.