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Saturday, April 14, 2007

CRUCIAL AWAY TIES FOR RHINOS


KOTA KINABALU: Rahman Zakaria insists the Rhinos have their own “class” and that they are ready for the challenges ahead as they embark on three crucial away battles starting with a date with Perak in the Malaysia Cup second round opener at the Perak Stadium tonight.

After the Perak clash, the Rhinos will switch their focus by taking on league leaders UPB-MyTEAM in a Premier League tie on April 17, before playing a derby match against Sarawak in the Malaysia Cup challenge on April 21.

“All these three matches are very important and difficult ones, especially the first two,” the Rhinos’ team manager said. “Nevertheless, we will try our best to gain something out of it. We must make sure that we do not slip any points away. Although we have to do it away from home, but I firmly believe that this is not an impossible mission to accomplish,” said Rahman as he eyes victory over their opponents.

“Perak are one of the best teams in the Super League, but we’re in a class of our own. We managed to beat them in the first leg (1-0 at the Likas Stadium). We have also shown that our level is not far away from them. Personally, I would say that we have a team that is ready to take on, not only Perak but the rest of the other teams as well.

“What is important is for us to keep on with the good work. It is also important for us to stick to our normal game. “I’m happy to note that the team is in their best condition for the battles and our aim is to get the maximum points. “We are doing quite well in the Malaysia Cup and are now moving up the Premier League table after a poor start. We are also in the FA Cup quarter-finals, so obviously we have every reason to be confident.

“We need as many points in all the competitions to ensure we will be up there among the top teams,” said Rahman. In the Malaysia Cup, Sabah currently occupy the second spot after the completion of the first round with 10 points in the bag … a mere one point behind leaders Kedah.

However, third-placed Perak are only one point behind Sabah while Police, who sit in fourth spot, are two points adrift. And with Kedah taking on lowly Sarawak and Police taking on bottom of the table Pahang, Sabah cannot afford any slip-ups. Meanwhile in the Premier League, Sabah are trying to pick up the points after enduring a poor start to the season.

The Rhinos have found their rhythm in the 11-team league recently and had since moved up to fifth place on 14 points and trail leaders UPB-MyTeam who have 24 points.

Rahman said that after the Perak game, they will be staying put in the national capital and would return home after the UPB-MyTEAM game before taking on the road again to face Sarawak.

After the Sarawak clash, Sabah will play two consecutive home fixtures – against Kuala Lumpur (Premier League – April 24) and Kedah (Malaysia Cup – April 28).

The squad, led by Rahman, left for Perak yesterday with all its keys players making the trip.

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