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Friday, March 30, 2007

NOTHING TO FEAR


KOTA KINABALU: An explosive clash is on the cards as Sabah take on surprise leaders UPB-MyTEAM in a Premier League challenge at the Likas Stadium tonight.

And this is surely one big match for Sabah as far as their Premier League challenge is concerned.

They know they just cannot afford to slip points away from their grasp as it could put them in trouble.

Datuk Anifah Aman knows how big and important the match is for the Rhinos.

“When you look at our situation, of course this is going to be a big match for us. I think it is going to be an explosive one too.

“But we are ready for the challenge, and I really hope we will have a good game tomorrow,” the Sabah FA President said.

“Here I would like to urge the fans to come in full force to support our team. Their presence would certainly help the team play better.

“I can assure them that we will certainly give the best we can to win the game for the fans.

Anifah, who is also the FA of Malaysia Vice President, added: “Although we may be seen at the wrong end of the standings in the league, but I think it would be wrong to suggest that this is going to be a one sided affair.”

“We had a good game against Johor FC, and if we take it from there, I’m confident we will get what we are aiming for,” Anifah said referring to Sabah’s 4-3 victory over the club side in a FA Cup second round challenge on Tuesday.

“I’m also glad to see that our new signing (Prince Ativie Guy) seemed to click well with Charles Obi in the Johor FC game.

“And I think their partnership will get better. And it would also be a big game for him (Prince Ativie Guy) as this will be his home match debut.

Prince Ativie Guy scored Sabah’s third goal against Johor FC in his debut for the team.

But while Sabah will have all-Nigerian imports with defender Prince Eboagwa Etuwe being the other, UPB-MyTEAM will be strengthened by the presence of all-Croatian foreign players, namely Mijo Dadic, Dijan Miljanic and Marin Mikac.

Mijo, who previously played for MK Land, is a defender, while Dijan is an attacking midfielder and Marin is a former Croatian Under-21 striker.

Another interesting factor in the build-up to the match is that both teams are being coached by Croatians – Drago Mamic for Sabah, while UPB-MyTEAM is being coached by Bojan Hodak.

And the presence of the top three scorers in the league will only make the match a mouth-watering one.

UPB-MyTEAM’s Marin is the current league top scorer with seven goals, while Sabah’s striker-in-chief Obi and Dijan both registered five goals each.

Meanwhile, Drago reminded the Rhinos not to be afraid of their opponents, pointing out that they have the quality to turn the table on the table toppers.

For the record, UPB-MyTEAM are leading the pack in the 11-team standings on 20 points, while Sabah are second from bottom on seven points.

“They are undoubtedly the best side in the Premier League at the moment, and we must respect them for that. However, you shouldn’t be afraid of them because I firmly believe that you all have the quality to achieve a positive result,” Drago said as he briefed his charges before their light training at the Likas Stadium yesterday.

While not wanting to add additional pressure on the players, Drago said that they (players) must know what to do tomorrow.

“They have proven that they can play good football. We have beaten top sides like Perak, Johor FC or Melaka, and I see no reason why we cannot do the same tomorrow night.

Like Anifah, Drago is also expecting the match to be an explosive one.

“I think this match is going to be explosive and entertaining. They are a good side, but I think we are also a good squad too.

“When you look at our statistics, I think we have made progress. We have played 14 games, and if these 14 matches were all league matches, it would have put us among the top teams.

“But I’m not too worried about our current position in the league because we are now in transition. Once we get over it, then we will be among the top teams,” said Drago.

While Sabah will certainly be playing its three foreign players, UPB-MyTEAM is also expecting to do the same.

The bonus point for the Rhinos is that they have all their best players for the clash, including team skipper Ronny Harun.

And if the Rhinos can show off fast and fluent football as they did against Perak, then victory will be theirs tonight.

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