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Friday, March 14, 2008

GOLDEN CHANCE TO CLOSE THE GAP


KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos will be out to stretch their unbeaten run of six games, and may go for the jugular when they take on the unpredictable Premier League new boys Felda United at the Likas Stadium tonight. Rahman Zakaria said they are not taking any chances and that they must give their level best against the inexperienced Felda United whom they narrowly defeated (2-1) in the first round.

Then Sabah needed an injury-time goal from Brazilian Andre Scotti Ossemer to win the match. Andre, who made his debut in the game, scored the equaliser for Sabah in the 70th minute after Khairul Izuan shocked the homesters by helping his side to take the lead after just 22 minutes of play.

“That was a lesson learnt,” said Rahman, while assuring that there would be no repeat of such a situation. “I think we took the match too lightly and in the end we were made to struggle. “But now the players are aware that this will not be an easy game and that they must be on top of their form in order to get the right result,” he said. “Furthermore, it is just not right to underestimate them. If you look at the standings, they are only six points away from us in sixth placing. So tonight there is no question of us to taking this match lightly.

The Rhinos are fifth in the standings on 27 points and this will be a golden opportunity for them to close the gap with the top teams. With third-placed Johor Pasir Gudang (30 points) having a rest day, and fourth-placed Kelantan (28 points) having a tricky trip to Kuala Lumpur in an away battle, a victory could see Sabah move to at least fourth if other results favour them. League leaders KL Plus (37 points) will have an easy night by taking on lowly Armed Forces, while second-placed Kuala Muda Naza (33 points) will play away to Proton FC.

Rahman said the Rhinos chances of winning (against Felda United) are good.

“As long as we are not over confident, and with the spirit that we have now our chances look good. But I believe the team can handle the pressure and the situation we are in now where winning is all that matters. “So I hope the players will give their 110 per cent effort to get the points. “Our head coach (Drago Mamic) has done his part and all those minor weaknesses in the previous game have been rectified. Rahman also reminded the players that the most important thing tonight would be to score goals. He said to do this, they cannot rely on one player and that it must be done with team effort.

“Who scores the goals is not important, but what is more important is we try to score as many goals as possible and win the game,” said Rahman. At the same time, Rahman also called on the Rhinos loyal fans to turn up in full force to support the team. Ironically, Sabah have been on an unbeaten run since the 2-1 victory over Felda United on January 28. They went on to win the next three games (against Melaka 3-0, Shahzan Muda 1-0 and Harimau Muda 2-0), before being held to a one-all draw by Harimau Muda – no thanks to the injury time strike by Yusaini Hafiz.

But Sabah were back to winning ways as they edged Melaka 3-2 in their last game away from home. Rahman hinted that there will be no major changes to the side that defeated Melaka with hat-trick hero Andre Scotti set to start alongside Englishman Jamie Phoenix in attack. “If there are any changes it would be because of injury, suspension or game plan,” said Rahman.

TONIGHT’S FIXTURES

Sabah vs Felda United (Likas Stadium, Kota Kinabalu – 8.15pm) Shahzan Muda vs Melaka (Darul Makmur Stadium, Kuantan – 8.45pm) Armed Forces vs KL Plus FC (Selayang Municipal Council Stadium – 8.45pm) Proton FC vs Kuala Muda NAZA (MBPJ Stadium, Kelana Jaya – 8.45pm) Kuala Lumpur vs Kelantan (KLFA Stadium, Cheras – 8.45pm)

CURRENT STANDINGS

P W D L F A GD PTS (1) KL Plus FC 15 12 1 2 34 12 22 37 (2) K. Muda Naza 14 11 0 3 28 16 12 33 (3) Johor PG 15 9 3 3 30 15 15 30 (4) Kelantan 14 8 4 2 33 20 13 28 (5) SABAH 14 8 3 3 25 13 12 27 (6) Felda United 15 6 3 6 19 16 3 21 (7) Harimau Muda 15 6 2 7 21 22 -1 20 (8) PKNS Selangor 14 4 4 6 19 21 -2 16 (9) Kuala Lumpur 15 3 4 8 20 27 -7 13 (10) Melaka 15 4 1 10 16 26 -10 13 (11) Shahzan Muda 14 3 3 8 15 31 -16 12 (12) Proton FC 15 3 2 10 15 34 -19 11 (13) Armed Forces 15 3 0 12 19 41 -22 9

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