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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

LAST-8 BERTH UP FOR GRABS


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will be banking on its latest signing in Ijiebor Ativie Prince Guy when they take on Johor FC in the second round of the FA Cup at the Tan Sri Dato Hj Hassan Yunos Stadium, Larkin tonight.

The 20-year-old Nigerian attacking player is very likely to make his debut after getting his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) in time for the clash.

“He is free to play, but then again it is up to the coach to decide whether he would start for the team,” said Sabah FA executive secretary Harry Baking, who confirmed that they have received Ijiebor’s ITC.

Ijiebor was signed to replace Poland striker Arkadiusz Jerzy Zarlzynski, who left the team on a mutual agreement with the FA.

He is the third Nigerian in the team after striker-in-chief Charles Obi and defender Prince Eboagwa Etuwe.

Ijiebor, who made his overseas debut by playing for a club in the Vietnam League for the 2005-2006 season prior to his arrival in the Land Below the Wind, is expected to spearhead the Rhinos’ attack together with Obi as he was among the Rhinos’ 17-member squad that left for Johor yesterday.

Besides being boosted with the presence of Ijiebor, Sabah would also be strengthened by the return of Ahmad Tharmini Saiban for the clash.

The defender who has fully recovered from injury, is set to be back into the first team. However, Sabah will be without its first choice goalkeeper G. Jeevanatham as he was not among the travelling Rhinos.

So youngsters Irwan Jamil or Harold John will start the game, with Irwan likely to get the nod.

With the exception of the introduction of Ijiebor and Irwan likely to be the Rhinos’ last man, any other changes are unlikely.

“It is our hope to make it into the next round. Last season, we fumbled at the first round, but this time, we want to go beyond the quarter-finals,” said team manager Rahman Zakaria.

“All our players are available for the clash and in this sense we will be having our best squad for the clash.

“This is a do-or-die battle not only for us, but also for our opponents because there won’t be any second leg. So there is certainly no room for error and I can say that the team that makes lesser mistakes will win the game.

“However, I am confident the team will deliver as they have been training very hard during the break,” said Rahman.

Sabah booked their second round ticket after defeating Melaka 2-1 in the first round.

Six second round matches will be played tonight including the Johor FC-Sabah clash while another two matches – Shahzan Muda-Kuala Muda Naza and Johor PG-Kelantan – were played last night.

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