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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rhinos held to a scoreless draw by Kuala Muda Naza

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah and Kuala Muda Naza played to a scoreless draw in a Premier League match that was disrupted for 20 minutes following security concerns from match officials at the Likas Stadium on Friday night.

Referee Alagurajan Muniyaiyah halted the match with just eight more minutes left on the clock following advice from the other officials after a heated moment on the pitch that led to a tense situation between the two teams' officials.

It began when a Kuala Muda Naza player got late a boot in after Sabah goalkeeper Irwan Jamil had gathered a low ball cleanly that irked the Sabah's officials on the sideline.

Officials in the Kuala Muda Naza's bench including its chief coach, Abdul Ghani Long also stood up and proceeded to the sideline in reaction to the incident. One of their trainers was also seen heading towards the Sabah bench but was stopped by his colleague. This jolted the home fans who started lobbing water bottles onto the pitch aimed at the visiting team's bench.

With just six security marshals visible on the sidelines, worried match officials called up Alagurajan to halt the game as they spoke to a senior police officer requesting for more security presence in the stadium.

Sabah team manager, Rahman Zakaria and head coach, Drago Mamic as well as Rhinos stand-in captain, Ahmad Tharmini Saiban then tried to calm the fans.

However, the fans opposite the grand stand were already seen trying to force down the gate but stopped upon seeing a policeman from the canine unit entering.

Minutes later, the sound of sirens accompanied the arrival of two truck loads of riot police in an effort to maintain order and this finally allowed the referee to proceed with the remaining minutes of the match.

In the first 45 minutes, it was Kuala Muda Naza who had a good spell creating chances through their attacking midfielder, Kamarulzaman Mahmud and import Boromo Itiegie Richard.

Boromo had a golden opportunity in the 24th minute through a header headed off Kamarulzaman's free kick but Irwan was quick to parry the ball and the resulting rebound was cleared away by his defender.

Sabah's dangerman, Charles Obi donning a new hair do, bald shaven, had a chance to draw first blood for the Rhinos shortly before the breather but his shot from inside the box was tipped over the bar by Kuala Muda Naza custodian Mohd Al-Husairi Ibrahim for a corner. In the second half, Coach Mamic tried to change the Rhinos rhythm by substituting Mohd Munir Amran with lanky striker Salvester Sindih.

However, it was young midfielder, Radzi Mohd Hussin who had the golden chance in the 47th minute when he received a headed down ball by Prince Guy Ative in the penalty box.

But his stinging shot was parried by Mohd Al-Husairi who quickly recovered in the nick of time to snatch the ball away from the lurking Obi.

The absence of captain Rosdin Wasli in midfield who was serving a suspension due to three yellow cards in the Premier League in a way affected the Rhinos gameplan, although his replacement, Radzi performed well with his pin-point passing.

The Rhinos already playing without key defender, Ronny Harun who is away on national duty also lost another defender, S. Sunder who was injured in the first half and replaced by Julamri Muhammad.

Veteran defender, Burhan Ajui who was given the captain's role was substituted by Coach Mamic late in the second half replaced by Rajesh Perumal.

The overlapping fullback, Rajesh immediately contributed to the game when he floated the ball in for Prince Guy Ativie but his header was just over the bar in the 77th minute.

The fans were also frustrated with the time wasting tactic of the Kuala Muda Naza as their players were seen falling to the ground claiming injuries each time there was contact even though it was minimal.

Minutes later, Kuala Muda Naza launched a counter attack that sparked the aforementioned security concern resulting in the match having to be delayed by 20 minutes. When play was finally resumed at about 10.25pm, Kuala Muda Naza beat the Rhinos offside trap with substitute striker, Azmi Sarmin running fast from the right flank to the penalty box.

With just the keeper to beat, Azmi's blistering shot hit the side netting instead, much to the relief of the Sabah fans.

In injury time, Ramzi found Chow Chee Wing in top of the box who flicked on the ball to Ativie who could have sealed the game for Sabah but his shot also went into the side netting. The presence of the riot police in the stadium managed to put the situation under control although the jeering continued even after the final whistle.

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