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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

ANYBODY’S GAME


KOTA KINABALU: Perak are certainly the red hot favourites but the Rhinos’ head coach Drago Mamic believes it is still anybody’s game until they play the last 90 minutes of the two-leg Malaysia Cup semi-final.

They will take on Perak in the return leg in an away battle at the Perak Stadium tonight.

The result of the first leg suggests that it will be the home side Perak that will be holding the upper hand over their Premier League rivals Sabah.

They will not only be having the homeground advantage and crowd support, but the away goal that they scored in the one-all draw in the first leg at the Tawau Sports Complex could prove to be decisive.

But Drago insisted that this is a game that no one could predict, including himself.

“They say Perak are holding the advantage after the one-all draw. But they can say anything because to me this is a game you cannot predict. There are 90 minutes left to be played.

“We may say that we can score four goals or five goals to win the game and it could also happen that we may concede three goals or four goals, but only the result of the game at the end of the day counts.

The only thing that worries Drago is the level of refereeing.

He said in the first leg, the level of refereeing was very poor, and for tonight’s game, Drago hopes that neither team will get any advantage from the man in black.

“I think Perak also want it the same way. We need fair play, not only from the players from both sides, but also from the match officials. And if this happens, I have no doubt this is going to be a good and exciting game,” said Drago.

He also admitted that they are expecting a torrid time in Ipoh, adding that Perak are a good side who could have won the Super League. They ended up second behind champions Kedah.

“We know this is going to be a tough game. But on our part we will certainly not make it easy for them as well. In this Cup game, anything is possible.

“And I firmly believe that we are still pretty much in this (final),” said Drago.

On the team’s preparations, Drago said that things have been pretty hard not only for him, but also the players due to the tight fixtures.

Nevertheless, he said they expected this to happen, and that they have prepared for it since two weeks ago or so.

“After the first leg of the semi-final, we knew it would be decided in the return leg, so we have prepared for it because we expected this to happen.

“So we know that we need to do the damage in this return leg. The one-all draw in the first leg they say has given Perak the advantage, but I believe that we will have the opportunity to score goals in the remaining 90 minutes. And if we cannot score, then we don’t deserve to be in the final,” Drago said.

For that reason, Drago hopes the players will give their maximum in the game.

On his strategy, Drago did not hesitate to say that “the strategy is to win the game”.

But he said it has been proven that they can take on any team, including a Super League outfit like Perak.

However, he added that it will depend on the players who will need to do the talking on the battlefield.

“The players have shown that they can play at the same level as Perak. They can dominate … they can score and in my opinion we can do it. And as the saying goes … anything is possible.

Drago revealed that he is no stranger to this kind of decisive game, adding that he had the same experience while coaching top clubs in China.

He also thanked the Rhinos’ fans, not only from Tawau but also throughout the State for supporting the team.

“Like what the President (Datuk Anifah Aman) has said we must sincerely thank the Tawau fans for the support they have given to the team. At the same time, I would also like to thank the fans from Kota Kinabalu … about 100 to 200 of them who made their way to Tawau. I believe that we have good support from fans all over the State.

“And we will try to win this game for them,” said Drago.

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