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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

UNDERDOGS TAG SUITS THE RHINOS


KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos are happy to carry the underdogs tag when they take on Super League outfit Perak in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup semi-final at the Tawau Sports Complex on September 1.

Rahman Zakaria said they have no problem to walk into the battlefield as the underdogs having to face Perak.

“Having the slight homeground advantage will not make us the favourites. Perak are from the Super League and they finished second in the just concluded Super League behind eventual champions Kedah. They are the hot favourites,” said the Rhinos’ team manager.

Nevertheless, Rahman assured that they will not make life easy for the Silver State team by declaring they are ready for the big battle.

He said the players are all fired up and have pledged to give the Rhinos’ fans something to cheer for at the end of the day.

“Our preparations have been going on smoothly. I can see that the players are very much in the mood to give it a good shot in this first leg. Hopefully, things will go our way on the night.

Rahman said with the exception of skipper Rosdin Wasli, the rest of the players will be there for options.

Rosdin will miss the first leg after collecting his second yellow card in the 3-1 victory over Negeri Sembilan NAZA in the return leg of the quarter-final.

The midfielder will serve his automatic one-match suspension and would be available for the return leg on September 4.

Despite not having Rosdin for the clash, Rahman said there is nothing to worry about as head coach Drago Mamic has his game plan ready.

“We have adequate replacements for Rosdin. In fact we have won without him in the squad before.

“It would be great if he is available, but even without him, we still have a decent team to mount our challenge.

“Our coach has been working very hard to prepare the team, and I can see that he has a winning recipe,” said Rahman.

With Rosdin out, the Croatian coach is likely to make a minor reshuffle to his first team with the young Hardy Charles Parsi seen as one of the several options that would likely come in for Rosdin.

Drago could also make a little bit of a shake up in the players’ positioning following the return of fit-again defender Ahmad Tharmini Saiban.

Against Negeri Sembilan NAZA, Ahmad Tharmini did not start the game as he was not 100 per cent fit, but did feature in the victory late in the game coming in for Mohd Munir Amran.

With him around, Sabah will have a solid defence for the Perak clash.

Ahmad will have Bosnian Dragic Dalidor, Ronny Harun and possibly Munir to team up at the Rhinos’ backline.

Drago also has other options of playing Rezuan Radzy or L. Suresh at the backline.

This time around, Chow Chee Wing would have a greater role in the heart of the Rhinos’ midfield as Drago is expected to stick to his two youngsters – Tawau-born Zulamri Muhammad and the speedy Azrul Ejati Damsah – either Hardy Charles Parsi or Zainizam Marjan rather than the experienced Henry Soimpon could come in for the suspended Rosdin to form the four-man midfield.

While Charles Obi and new signing Felisberto de Oliveira Freira Jr, who netted a double in his home debut against Negeri Sembilan NAZA, the duo will spearhead the Rhinos’ attack.

And the Tawau fans will have something extra to cheer for as they will see another Tawau-born lad in Irwan Jamil likely to be the Rhinos’ No 1 ball stopper.

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