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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rhinos draw in drama- filled match

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah drew 1-1 to share points with bottom-of-table KL Plus FC in a Premier League match that was filled with drama during and after the match in Likas Tuesday night.

Dissatisfaction and frustration with the sub-standard refereeing saw water bottles and other objects being thrown onto the field shortly after referee Syawal Ibrahim blew the final whistle.

Right after the match, officials from Sabah's management and Sabah FA were seen going to the centre of the field apparently to voice out their dissatisfaction with the referee and his assistants.

The match had earlier started on a slow note with both sides finding it difficult to break the deadlock.

The only highlight in the first half was when the Rhinos had to clear the ball off the line from KL Plus' striker Mohd Badrul Hisini Abd Rahman in a follow-up strike to a powerful free kick by striker Mohd Lot Abu Hassan from the top of the box that was palmed away by Sabah's goalie, G. Jeevananthan in the 20th minute.

In a bid to swing the game for the Rhinos, Coach Drago Mamic made a tactical change by substituting winger, Juramri Muhd with striker Sylvester Sindih early in the first half.

During the first half, referee Syawal flashed at least four yellow cards with three of them to Sabah and one to KL Plus.

In the second half, the drama began to unfold when in the 53rd minute right attacking back P. Rajesh accidentally handled the ball while chasing a high loose ball following a try by a KL Plus player inside the penalty box.

Syawal did not hesitate to award a penalty to clubside KL Plus that was converted by Mohd Badrul whose low shot to the left sent Jeevananthan the wrong way to make it 1-0.

Just two minutes earlier, Sabah's hitman Charles Obi had a one-on-one chance with the goalkeeper after outrunning his marker to chase a high ball in but he ballooned his shot.

His partner up front, Arkadiusz Jerzy Zarlzynski from Poland also had a bad night that saw Coach Drago Mamic having to adjust his position to midfield in the first half and later to skipper Ronny Harun's position in the right back.

Ronny who was asked to play in midfield to accommodate the change later reverted back to his original position when Zarlzynski was finally substituted with nippy left winger, Azrul Ejati Damsah.

The home fans began to show their disappointment with the match officials when on several occasions Sabah players were brought down inside the KL Plus penalty box but went unpunished.

The jeering grew louder as the fans became frustrated by the delay tactic employed by KL Plus.

Then came Sabah's equalising goal with 15 minutes left to play that was scored amidst confusion in the KL Plus defence as several players were down inside their box.

Sabah's left back, S. Sunder controlled a goal kick by KL Plus custodian Mohd Amrol Jaihan and from over 40 metres out lobbed the ball over the out-of-positioned goal keeper to level the score 1-1.

Seconds before the goal, a KL Plus defender went down after chasing Obi inside the box but Sabah continued to press forward since referee Syawal had waved play-on.

A through ball into the KL Plus box resulted in more players including a Rhinos falling to the ground after a harsh tackle that could have been a penalty.

On seeing the incident and despite several players lying on the ground, KL Plus goalie, Mohd Amrol immediately picked up the ball for a goal kick and instead of kicking it out to touch sent the ball up field.

Since the referee did not stop play, Sunder put the ball to the back of KL Plus' net leaving Mohd Amrol rooted to the spot. The equaliser raised Rhinos spirit but was continuously frustrated by KL Plus' delaying tactic.

The referee ended the match just before the three minutes of injury time was up. It took several minutes for the commotion to subside before the match officials returned to the dressing rooms.

With the draw, the Rhinos now have six points while KL Plus FC collected only their second point in this season so far.

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