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Sunday, May 13, 2007

RHINOS STILL IN THE RACE


KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos’ promotion hopes took a nose dive on Friday after slipping two valuable points away, following the scoreless draw against Kuala Muda Naza.

However, the Rhinos refuse to throw in the towel just yet, with Rahman Zakaria insisting that they are still pretty much in the race (for promotion).

“No, it is not over for us … no question about that. I think we are still pretty much in the race. We have six games left to play and that will be good for us,” the Rhinos team manager insisted.

“We are disappointed (the draw), but there is no point in crying over spilt milk. We should instead take the result positively and use it to bolster our determination in the remaining matches.

“It was a match that we could have won, but we paid the price for lacking the cutting edge upfront.

“I’m sad that we just could not put even one goal behind the net, knowing that this is one of those games that we could have won with ease.

“I must admit that it was not our best performance, especially in the first half where the team played below par, but still … when you look at it again (game) I think we had enough chances to win it if we were more clinical in our finishing,” Rahman added.

“If we managed to put one of those chances behind the net, it could have been a different story.

“We have to learn from this because we just cannot rest on our laurels no matter who our opponents are.

It was no surprise to many (fans especially) to see the Rhinos put up a lacklustre performance as they are well known for it … playing a superb game against a better team, and putting up an unconvincing show against a weaker team.

The Rhinos must realise that they must put up a consistent show and give their 100 per cent in any game if they harbour winning something at the end of the season.

To become champions or to gain promotion is not about one game or choosing games when to play their hearts out, but what matters most is consistency and winning as many matches as possible.

Now all that is left for the Rhinos after squandering what could have been an easy victory is to win the remaining six matches at all costs, while hoping that the top two teams fumble somewhere along the way until the season ends.

League leaders Police, who edged Kuala Lumpur 2-1, are now leading the pack on 31 points, seven points ahead of third-placed Sabah (24 points). And you must be aware that Police have played one match lesser than Sabah, while UPB-MyTEAM are second on 28 points after scoring a late winner against PKNS (2-1).

In the match against Kuala Muda NAZA, Charles Obi, Prince Ativie Guy as well as substitute Salvester Sindeh all had their share at the Kuala Muda Naza goalmouth with Prince Ativie having the best opportunity when he missed from inside the six-yard box in injury time of the game.

As for the visitors, its striker Azmin Sarmin, whose unfair challenge earlier on Irwan Jamil that triggered the 20-minute halt to the game due to safety reasons, missed a sitter when he beat the off-side trap to go one on one with Irwan, but it was fortunate for Sabah as his shot only hit the side netting.

The Rhinos’ remaining league matches will be against KL Plus FC (May 22) and Shahzan Muda (June 12) at home, and four away matches starting with Kelantan (May 18), Johor Pasir Gudang (June 5), PDRM (July 3) and Selangor PKNS (July 31).

Meanwhile, Rahman is confident that Sabah will be able to return to their usual form when they take on Perlis in the first leg of the FA Cup quarter-final here on May 15.

“The coach (Drago Mamic) has the qualities to lift the players and I’m sure he will plot his best strategy against Perlis.

“But then again, the players must carry out their responsibility on the pitch to claim a first leg advantage,” he said.

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