Jakarta. A thrilling climax to the season in Malaysia’s second tier saw an historic team with a heavy Indonesian influence running through their veins secure a last gasp promotion and return to the top flight for the first time since 2010.
After the penultimate round of fixtures it did look like Penang would fall, yet again, at the final hurdle. T Team's 7-0 thrashing of SPA not only left question marks, it left Penang facing another season in the Premier League as the side from Terangganu looked to have boosted their goal difference in just 90 minutes to become favorites for the second promotion place.
But football, it's a funny old game, innit. T Team travelled to relegation threatened Kuantan and lost 2-1 leaving Penang, who had defeated UiTM 2-0 in Melaka to celebrate a surprise but deserved promotion to the top flight ... their first time since 2010.
It was a fitting reward for one of the oldest clubs in Malaysian football. They had sent out a message of intent before the season had even started when they recruited Brazilian coach Jacksen F Tiago.
The 47-year-old had sprung a surprise when he quit Indonesia's Persipura Jayapura while they were involved in an AFC Cup semi final tie at the tail end of 2014, bringing an end to a trophy laden spell with the Black Pearls. Since joining back in 2008 he had led the side to three Indonesia Super League titles, one Inter Island Cup and one Community Shield. Back in 2004 he had also guided Persebaya Surabaya to the Indonesian title.
As is the wont of coaches in this day and age, once Jacksen was safely ensconced in the coach's office in Penang, a beautiful island off the west coast of Malaysia, he set about bringing in people he was familiar with to do a job for him.
In came compatriot Alberto Goncalves, nicknamed Beto, a short, stocky striker who had made a name for himself in Indonesia for his pace and eye for goal as his 100 plus goals testify.
Joining Jacksen's Penang revolution was another Brazilian with Indonesian experience, Hilton Moreira. An eight year veteran of Indonesia with Sidoarjo Deltras, Persib Bandung and Sriwijaya Palembang, Moreira had signed for Penang in 2014 and the new coach wasted no time in securing the striker-cum-flank player for the 2015 season.
Jacksen's Persipura was built around pace and power and the new coach was obviously looking to replicate that success with his new team with the likes of Beto and Hilton. However, he was also mindful not to tamper too much with a squad that had just missed out on promotion in 2014 and in South Korean striker Lee Kil-hoon he recognized both a player with talent and also the necessary know how to battle in the Premier League against unlikely sounding football teams like T Team, DRB Hicom and SPA. The former Suwin Samsung Bluewings player had also contributed 15 goals in the 2014 campaign.
Finishing runners up to champions Kedah in his first season in Malaysian football is no mean achievement and burnishes the credentials of coach Jacksen even more. Still young for a coach there is every chance clubs in the bigger leagues in Asia will have been keeping a quiet eye on his career. Indeed there was talk a couple of years ago of interest from a Chinese side.
For now there is the small matter of the Malaysia Cup, the oldest cup competition in Asia but after that who knows where next for the Brazilian coach who cut his teeth learning the game in the cut and thrust world of Indonesian football.