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Sunday, April 08, 2007

ON A ROLL – Rhinos extend unbeaten run


KOTA KINABALU: Friday’s victory over second-placed Police could well be the Rhinos’ revival in their quest for promotion next season as they surged from the eighth spot to fifth in the 11-team standings.

In fact the Rhinos have been pretty consistent in the League as they have extended their unbeaten run to seven matches.

However, as statistic shows, their only problem is that they find it difficult to win a League game! But their performances in the Malaysia Cup as well as the FA Cup suggests otherwise.

But after two convincing victories in their last two games over the top two teams in the League, it clearly indicates that the Rhinos are bent on winning more games. Prior to this victory, Sabah also defeated table toppers UPB-MyTEAM with a similar score line, 3-1.

Rahman Zakaria insisted that the Rhinos are almost at their peak. “This team will get better,” he said. “The way things are going, we are moving in the right direction and it is important for us to keep it that way.

“We shouldn’t be carried away. There will be no easy matches from now on, but I firmly believe that the players are ready for the challenges ahead.”

Rahman added while stressing the importance of the team in maintaining a winning momentum. “From now every point will be crucial in our quest for promotion. But I’m happy to see that the players have started to realize that they have a mission to accomplish,” said Rahman.

For the record, Sabah is not only eyeing promotion, they are still in the race for the Malaysia Cup and the FA Cup.

Rahman is also delighted to note that the players have started to merge as a team.

“I think this has been the strength of the team. The bond among and between the players have been great. Unity in the team is also excellent and they have shown on the battlefield how they supported and motivated each other.

Commenting on Charles Obi, Rahman said: “He has been fantastic for the team.”

“We should be glad that we have him on our side because if we are up against him, he will be a handful to handle.

“He’s got the height, pace, strength and two good feet which are ideal for a top striker and I’m not surprised that he has been scoring regularly.

“I hope he can continue with this scoring spree and lead Sabah’s charge in all the competitions that we are in,” he added.

However, Rahman is quick to point out that this is not a one-man team.

“Obi has been doing great, but in all fairness, the rest of the players have also done their part. As I have said earlier, this squad is all about team effort and with a player like Obi in the team he will make us even stronger.

The Nigerian striker is now a hit among the Rhinos fans. He is the team’s leading scorer with 15 goals in all competitions.

The lanky Obi, who signed for Sabah at the start of the season, has proven beyond doubt his ability on the field. And what is more special about him is that he not only finds the net but creates scoring opportunities for his team-mates. Sooner rather than later, his partnership with countryman Prince Ativie Guy could be the deadliest ever seen in the Premier League.

He is now the Premier League’s leading scorer with nine goals. He also scored three goals apiece in the FA Cup and Malaysia Cup competition.

Once again, Rahman hopes that fans will come in full force in drumming up support for the team.

“We are getting the right results with some impressive displays, and I really foresee a steady increase in crowd turn-up for our home games ahead. We really need the presence of the fans to further uplift the spirit of the team,” Rahman said.

In the match against Police, Sabah were forced to fight from a goal down before slotting three goals after B. Rajinikandh had put Police in front in the 58th minute with a well-drilled free-kick.

Second-half substitute Salvester Sindeh equalised for Sabah after only six minutes on the field when he came on for Zulamri Muhammad. He slotted home Obi’s past from close range.

It was Obi’s turn next when he netted his first in the 75th minute before adding the second five minutes from regulation time.

UPB-MyTEAM remain unshakeable at the top of the standings with 24 points, five ahead of Police, but the Cops have a two-match advantage.

PKNS is in third on 17 followed by Kelantan in fourth on 16. Sabah is in fifth with 14 points to show.

Sabah’s next fixture is an away tie to Perak in a Malaysia Cup challenge on April 14 followed by another away match in the Premier League clash against UPB-MyTEAM on April 17.

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