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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rhinos’ promotion quest alive and kicking!

KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos’ quest for Super League promotion is pretty much alive and kicking! On Monday, they extended their unbeaten run to eight matches with a 2-1 victory over Selangor PKNS at the MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya. The victory helped them to share the third spot with Johor Pasir Gudang in the 13-team standings as both sides are level on 33 points, with the same number of goals scored or against as well as matches played. Rahman Zakaria is delighted to see the team gaining momentum, and believes that finishing the season among the top three teams is very much within their reach.

He, however, reminded his charges not to rest on their laurels, as from now on every game will be crucial and important. “We must try not to make any mistakes such as dropping points and so on. We have to maintain what we are doing. To be a good team the hard work must continue,” the Rhinos’ team manager said.

“I’m happy to see that the players can now adapt to the system introduced by our chief coach (Drago Mamic). They are getting better with each game and more matured as a team. If we can maintain this, I’m very optimistic about our chances,” said Rahman. “It has been quite a performance from the team in our last eight games. But we don’t want them to be satisfied with what they have done so far because the war is far from over.

“Furthermore, we are now entering the crucial stage of the league. There are another eight matches to go, and we must try to win as many games as possible. In the match against PKNS, Sabah were almost denied the full points when they conceded a penalty late in the game. However, young goalkeeper, Irwan Jamil, who made an early blunder to allow Mohizam Shah, to reduce the deficit for his side in the 76th minute, made amends by saving ex-Rhino flanker P. Rajesh’s spot kick.

Sabah took a two-goal lead with Hisamuddin Othman drawing first blood with his 44th minute effort before Andre Scottie Ossemer netted his seventh goal of the season in the 70th minute.

“Overall we played well. We dominated throughout the game. However, the muddy pitch just made it difficult for both sides, but we still managed to score goals, thanks to some fine football from the players.

The Rhinos’ chief coach Drago made three changes to the side that thrashed Felda United 4-1 prior to the clash. Hat-trick hero Salvester Sindeh and Chow Chee Wing were forced to start from the bench. Drago opted for Bobby Gonzales for Salvester, while Eddie Gapil came in for Chow. Zuraindey Jumai took over from the suspended Mohd Nafuzi Zain.

The rest of the players were retained with Dragic Dalibor, Ahmad Tharmini Saiban, Mohd Munir Amran, Wong Sai Kong, Jamie Phoenix, Andre Scottie and Hisamuddin all seeing first team action.

Later in the second half, Drago brought in Salvester, Zulamri Muhammad and Chow for Jamie, Eddie and Bobby respectively. Now Rahman said they would switch their focus to the FA Cup where they will be travelling to the national capital to take on Police in the first leg, second round on Friday.

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