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Saturday, May 12, 2007

MINNOWS HALT SABAH’S WINNING RUN


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s winning momentum was put to a halt by lowly Kuala Muda Naza after both sides ended their Premier League tie in a stalemate at the Likas Stadium last night.

The result certainly put a dent to Sabah’s promotion hopes especially after the two top teams – league leaders Police and second-placed UPB-MyTEAM – both won their respective battles last night. Police edged Kuala Lumpur 2-1 at the MPS Stadium in Selayang, while UPB-MyTEAM defeated Selangor PKNS by the same scoreline in Shah Alam. The other action of the night saw Johor Pasir Gudang blank Armed Forces 2-0 in Larkin, while KL PLUS FC defeated Kelantan 2-1 in Cheras. Despite the disappointing draw, Sabah remain third in the standings and also managed to extend their unbeaten run to 11 matches. However, this was not the result that they wanted as this was a game that they could have won with ease. Instead, they were punished for their pathetic performance, especially in the first half.

And it was just fortunate for the home side as their opponents – without disrespect to Kuala Muda Naza – did not have the quality to finish them off. The scrappy first half saw the visitors first test Sabah’s goalkeeper Irwan Jamil as its lanky foreign striker Boromo Itiegie Richard headed a Kamarulzaman free-kick straight into Irwan’s arms.

Sabah’s first attempt only came in the 28th minute through Charles Obi, who unleashed a shot from the D-box that sailed above the crossbar. Muhamad Zamri Chi twice saw his close-range attempt hit the Sabah side netting before Obi once again found space inside the Kuala Muda Naza goalmouth and curled a weak shot that was palmed away by Mohd Al-Husairi Ibrahim for a fruitless corner. After the break, Sabah introduced Salvester Sindeh for the injured Mohd Munir Amran, but even with Salvester’s presence, the rhythm of the game was still at a slow pace.

The first genuine chance only came in the 78th minute when Prince Ativie Guy headed a P. Rajesh cross, but unfortunately for Sabah it went above the crossbar.

And in the 83rd minute, things could have turned ugly when both sides from the bench were seen exchanging words with the fans, who also showed their anger by throwing bottles. It all started when a Kuala Muda Naza player Azmi Sarmin made a late attempt and his boots either accidentally or purposely hit Irwan’s body, who had already made a clean save from an attempt by a Kuala Muda player.

Irwan got up on his feet and tried to retaliate and it was at this juncture that the Sabah coach Drago Mamic was seen trying to rush to the scene before he was stopped by the fourth match official.

But Drago’s action seemed to anger the Kuala Muda bench where two or three of their officials were seen trying to challenge the officials at the Sabah bench. But before things got worse, with the fans already seen throwing bottles onto the stadium, match commissioner – Mohamad Rodzali – was quick enough to consult the referee – Alagurajan Muniyaiyah – and seconds later the match was stopped (for about 20 minutes) until the arrival of more security. And it was surely the poor handling of the game by the match official that caused this thing to happen.

Azmi Sarmin should have been punished with a yellow card for the offence, which he escaped not even with a warning. And when the match resumed, Sabah created two scoring opportunities with Salvester shooting wide, while Prince Ativie also saw his injury time attempt go off target.

Earlier on, it was Azmi Sarmin who could have turned hero for his side when he managed to beat the off-side trip and only had Irwan to beat, and it was fortunate for Sabah as he shot wide.

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