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Friday, February 22, 2008

Rhinos not taking Young Tigers lightly

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will be up against the country’s best players of their age in a Premier League tie tonight.

They face the National Under-19 squad dubbed as the Harimau Muda (Young Tigers) in their final first round fixture to be played at the Likas Stadium.

This will be the Rhinos’ first match in five games since switching their home venue to the Tawau Sports Complex due to the faulty floodlights at the Stadium.

The match kicks off at 8.15pm.

Drago Mamic wants the team to make a winning return, insisting that it will not only help keep their quest for promotion intact, but also give their Kota Kinabalu-based fans confidence in the team.

“We are taking one game at a time, but our intention will still be the same from the start of the season and that is to win. This game will be no exception and we will go into the battlefield aiming for nothing less than victory,” the Rhinos’ head coach said when met at the team’s light training at the Kota Kinabalu Sports Complex Field C in Likas yesterday.

“It is a pity not to have Rosdin (Wasli – the team captain) and Azrul (Ejati Damsah), but the rest of the players are ready for action.

“I still believe we have a strong enough squad to take on the country’s best youngsters. Their position (in the standings) proves that they are a good side. They are young and growing from game to game.

“But on our part we don’t need to worry about them because what is more important is to think about our own target.

“We are fortunate now that we have all our three foreign players available. We have registered three consecutive victories prior to this clash, and I hope it will not stop, but to continue with our winning ways.

“Since the start of the season, we have been playing with only one foreign player in seven matches, but now we have all three foreign imports in the team, and it surely make us a different team altogether.

“The young local players are showing progresses and the inclusion of Zuraindey (Jumai) is a big plus to the team. The arrival of players such as Nafuzi Zain and Wong Sai Kong to name a few, in my opinion, just makes us a better side than last season.

“But then again, we must show it on the field and not just by talking. So now, I’m challenging the boys to fight for consistency,” said Drago.

Drago also hinted that he would parade his best squad for the clash, an indication that he is not taking any chances of underestimating their young opponents.

On the presence of two foreign players on trials with the team, Drago said: “I’m satisfied with all the three foreign players that we have in the team. I have no reason to change anybody at the moment. But then again, I fully support the team management’s idea of bringing in the two players to attend trials with the team.

“This is because you never know what is going to happen.

“After this match, we are aware that we are entering the crucial stage of the League and with the FA Cup matches coming up, we certainly could not afford to have our foreign players being sidelined due to injury.

“So with the presence of the two new foreign players, we have cover-ups in case something happens,” said Drago.

Sabah are currently lying fifth with 20 points in the standings, while Harimau Muda are sixth on 16.

KL Plus FC lead the standings on 28 points, followed by Kuala Muda Naza in second on 27, Johor Pasir Gudang third (26) and Kelantan fourth (22).

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