President’s Cup challenge: Sabah FA 3-1 KL Sime Darby (20/5/2011)

SPOT KICK … Mohd Adiafandi Dullah (red) easily converts the penalty..

Our boys deliver

It was double joy for Sabah football yesterday!

The first joy came when their junior squad clinched their quarter-final berth in the President’s Cup challenge.

This is after they defeated KL Sime Darby 3-1 at the Likas Stadium (yesterday).

Not long after, news of their senior side emerged. And it was not a bad one either. They managed to snatch a point from their away tie against Perak that was played at the Lumut Stadium albeit they had to do it the hard way.

They fought their way back from a goal down before notching the equaliser at the dead.

It was youngster Md Rozaimi Amir who turned hero for his side after his injury time freekick deflected off a defender before it went into the back of the net.

Perak drew first blood from the spot after defender Rosdin Wasli fouled Akmal Rizal inside the penalty box.

Perak captain Shahrulnizam Mustapha easily converted the 49th minute spot kick, defeating the hapless Sabah top custodian Azizon Abd Kadir.

It was quite an equally contested tie with not many chances. Both sides had numerous chances at each other’s goalmouths with the best for Perak coming through Akmal, whose attempt hit the Sabah crossbar.

Sabah too had their chances. The best one came from a K. Thanaraj effort, but unfortunately, he only managed to see his attempt hit the goalpost.

No matter what happens to the tie between Pahang and Kuala Lumpur at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan (playing last night), Sabah will still maintain their 12th placing.

Back to the President’s Cup – a sluggish first half did not stop Sabah from getting full points.

Playing under the scorching sun, it was difficult for both sides to really strut their stuff.

They obviously struggled to play under the hot sun.

The opening 45 minutes was so sluggish that none of them could create any decent chances at each other’s goalmouths until late in the half.

The homesters were presented with the first one when Zackallani Antanom ballooned the ball wide from the left side of the Sime Darby goalmouth.

However, the striker was not to be denied from putting his name on the scoresheet when he easily slotted home the opener in the 40th minute after picking up a loose ball inside the box.

It started from Muis Mursalam, who unleashed a powerful low drive from just outside the box when the ball deflected off a defender and the loose ball fell in front of Zackallani before he slammed it home.

Early in the second half, Zackallani could have made it 2-0 for Sabah, but unfortunately this time his attempt hit the crossbar.

Sabah was not to be denied from extending their lead when they were awarded the spot kick in the 60th minute. Mohd Adiafandi Dullah converted the spot kick with ease.

It was 3-0 for Sabah in the 73rd minute. This time it was Didie Arizal Ibrahim who scored.

Muneswaren A/L Subramaniam scored the consolation for Sime Darby 10 minutes from regulation time.

“Well done and congratulations to the boys. They have done well and now we are in the quarter-finals,” a delighted team manager Juil Nuatim commented after the tie.

“Now our focus is the semi-final,” he added, while stressing that despite already clinching their quarters spot, they will not take their remaining preliminary round matches lightly.

“We want to keep our winning momentum going. We will not take our remaining matches (three) lightly. We want to conclude our preliminary round challenge top of the group,” he added.

“There is no point of playing well only in the preliminary round. We are targeting the championship, but we will do it one step at a time.”

Assistant coach Burhan Ajui was also happy with the three points.

However, he was a little bit disappointed with his chargers for not giving 100 per cent focus in the game.

“It is all about mentality. They know they are playing under the hot sun, but they shouldn’t have thought about that. Instead they should have focused on the game instead of worrying about the hot sun.

“This is the thing that we want them to learn. In football, if you are not focused, you will be punished. But we are lucky because our opponents also struggled playing under such a situation,” said Burhan.

Sabah play their next two games away, taking on Perak on Monday and Johor FC on Thursday.

Juniors give Justin a ‘winning send-off’

KUNG FU ACTION … Sabah skipper Mohd Azlan Shah Hassan Nor (red/black) clashes with a T-Team player as teammate Florencius Larim (right) looks on during their President’s Cup Group A clash at the Likas Stadium yesterday.

Sabah fought their way back from a goal down before sealing a narrow 2-1 victory over T-Team to eventually give their Head Coach Justin Ganai a ‘winning send-off’.

Yesterday was Justin’s last match with the team after being promoted to take charge of the senior side, replacing Australian Gary Phillips who was removed from his dual role as coach cum manager, obviously due to the team’s poor showing in the Malaysian Super League, late on Wednesday night.

After a shaky start where they were trailing by one goal at half time, the Sabah young chargers played their hearts out in the remaining half to collect all the three points that kept their unbeaten home record intact.

In fact, they won their last seven home games. Yesterday was the eighth.

The result also helped them edge closer to the quarter-finals.

It also assured them that their pole position in the Group A standings of the President’s Cup challenge was also secured unless their closest rivals registered a big victory (by at least six clear goals) in another clash elsewhere.

Both teams will be level on 34 points should Kelantan win.

T-Team took a shock lead on the stroke of half time through Mat Hafiz Mat Ariffin, who dribbled past Dendy Lowa before slotting home a grounder from inside the box that left custodian Endre S. Tipay hapless.

But after a scrappy first half, Sabah started the second aggressively as they launched a wave of attacks at the T-Team goalmouth.

However, it was not until the 54th minute when they found the much needed equaliser despite numerous attempts earlier on which failed to find the net.

Mohd Adiafandi Dullah was the one who put his side on level terms after slotting home the equalizer, picking up the rebound ball from the keeper who failed to make a clean catch from a first attempt by striker Zackkalani Antanom, who was outstanding for his side.

Then in the 66th minute, Adiafandi set up Muhammad Nazrin Mansur to score Sabah’s second by sending a low cross from the left for Muhammad to make the simplest of finishes by tapping the ball into the back of the net from close range.

Late on, Sabah had several more attempts to extend their lead. They had two goals disallowed for off-side while T-Team had one.

Justin when met after said despite a scrappy win, he refused to blame his chargers, saying that playing without their ‘star’ player Md Rozaimi Abd Rahman seemed to have an impact on the team.

“Yes we looked a little ‘weaker’ without him. We seemed to wonder where to find that weapon that could help us score the goals, but in the end the three points is all that matters,” said Justin.

He refused to admit that yesterday’s match was his last game by saying: “This is not my last. I will still be there for the team if they need my help.”

He then went on to say that as long as the team plays to the way they usually do, they can achieve something big this season.

“Winning the last two home games will assure the team their quarter-final berth. I fully believe that they can do it even without Rozaimi,” Justin said.

Sabah have another five matches to play to complete their preliminary round fixtures, and another six points would assure them a place in the last eight.

They take on KL Sime Darby and Kedah at home and play three away games against Bandar Penawar Sports School, Perak and Johor FC.

Juniors on a double mission

Sabah will be on a double mission when they take on KL Sime Darby in a President’s Cup challenge at the Likas Stadium today.

Besides avenging their 1-0 defeat to the same opponents in the first round, victory over the club side would also see them clinch their place in the quarter-finals.

Team manager Juil Nuatim hopes the players know how important the game is for the team.

“We lost narrowly to them in the first round, and it is good for us to get the better of them this time around. And more importantly, the win will help us book a place in the quarter-finals,” said Juil yesterday.

He believes that the two factors will be good enough to motivate the players to give the best they could in the game.

“At the same time, we would also like to keep our 100 per cent home record intact. We have won all our home matches thus far, and it would be great to keep it that way,” he added.

Sabah is currently leading the pack on 37 points after 16 matches. They registered 12 victories, one draw and three defeats enroute.

There are four more remaining matches for Sabah including today’s tie.

For the record, the top four teams in each group of the two-group tournament will make the quarters.

“We have another four matches to play (including today’s battle), but it is better for us to do it now rather than to wait. Forty points would put us through into the last eight for sure,” said Juil.

According to Juil, his chargers are in the best of condition, and are ready to deliver.

“With the exception of Rozaimi (Abd Rahman), the rest are all available for options,” he added, pointing out that they will not have the services of their star player as the latter is with the senior squad facing Perak, also playing today.

“This will not be an easy match for us, and we have to be at our best. Sime Darby also wants to win the tie in order to have any chance of making the quarters.

“Rozaimi’s absence will definitely be felt, but I don’t want the team to make that as an excuse because we have more than enough players to do the job. It is important we stick to our plan and play as a team,” said Juil.

Juil also called on the fans to come and support the team.

Juniors need you!

COME ONE, COME ALL … Sabahawks Fan Club members showing their support for the team.

Juil Nuatim called on the Sabahawks Fan Club to give undivided support towards the State Reserve League squad who are currently on song in the ongoing President’s Cup challenge.

He said the team need the support from the fans to keep them going in the Under-21 competition.

“I hope the Sabahawks Fan Club could also play their role and support our junior team. Their support means a lot to the players, and here I would like to say a big thank you to those who turned up for our first home match last week,” the State Reserve squad team manager said referring to their tie against Kelantan which they won 3-0 at the Likas Stadium. Then about 1,000 fans turned up for the clash.

Today, Sabah take on Perak in their second home game of the season, and are eyeing victory to consolidate their position at the top of the 11-team Group A standings.

The squad under the watchful eyes of Justin Ganai remain unbeaten after three games into the season.

They drew three-all with Selangor in the opener before they tamed Kelantan followed by their 1-0 victory over Penang on the road in their last outing.

“We play a home game tomorrow (tonight – 8.15pm) so I really hope more fans will turn up to support the team, especially those from the Sabahawks Fan Club,” said Juil.

Juil said the fan club should not support only the senior squad, but also the junior team as they are the back-up for the senior squad and they need backing as well.

“I believe the presence of the official fan club of the Sabah squad could give a positive impact to the junior side,” said Juil, adding that entry into the stadium is free.

After years of underperforming, the State Reserve League squad are riding high and lead the pack in the standings on seven points, one ahead of second-placed KL Sime Darby.

They are one of the only three sides to have kept their unbeaten record intact. The other two being Perlis and Terengganu’s T-team, who both played one match lesser than Sabah.

Another interesting note is the squad have scored seven goals in three games and conceded three.

Kelantan are also one point behind Sabah, but stay in third as KL Sime Darby have a better goal difference.

“When we look at the standings, only victory will help our cause of staying at the top. So we need to win to strengthen our position,” said Juil.

“I’m fully confident of our Head Coach (Justin) and I believe he has his own strategy on how to tackle Perak.”

Sabah will miss the services of two key players, defender Fandi Linik and striker Zul Mansshah Aling for the Perak tie.

Both players will be serving a one-match automatic suspension after getting their third yellow cards against Penang.

Meanwhile, Justin said that he would only make up his mind on the replacement for the duo after their training (late yesterday).

He, however, hinted that Zackkalani Antanom would likely come in for Zul while Azuan Azmah would fill in the vacuum left by Fandi.

Md Rozaimi Abd Rahman, who is the team’s leading scorer with five goals under his belt, will certainly be in Justin’s first-team squad.

credit to Sabahawks sumandak pic : Augustine Photography

President’s Cup challenge: Sabah FA 3-1 KL Sime Darby (20/5/2011) Reviewed by admin Ucop on 7:46 PM Rating: 5

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