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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

SUPER LEAGUE vs PREMIER LEAGUE


KOTA KINABALU: It will be the case of “Super League versus Premier League” when the FA Cup quarterfinals take centre stage in four venues tonight. With the exception of the Melaka versus reigning champions Kedah tie, the remaining three fixtures would see three Super League teams pitted against their Premier League counterparts.

Interestingly, the three Super League outfits – Selangor, Terengganu and Pahang – have six FA Cup titles between them with the Red Giants winning it a record four times, while both Pahang and Terengganu won the Cup once since its interception in 1990.

Sabah are the only team to have won the Cup from the Premier League sides that have made it to the last eight. Besides lifting the crown, Sabah or the Rhinos as they are fondly known as also have three runners-up medals under their belt. Ironically, tonight, the Rhinos will be taking on Pahang – the team they beat 3-1 to lift the crown for the first time ever in 1995 after two failed attempts earlier on – (1993 and 1994 – lost to Kuala Lumpur on both occasions 2-1 and 3-1).

In 1998, Sabah also made it into the final, but Johor shattered their dream of creating history by winning the crown on home soil – they were beaten 1-0 by the visitors at the Likas Stadium. “We are only two steps away from making it to our fifth final. This is our best chance to move on in the competition. I hope the players will not waste the opportunity,” said the Rhinos’ team manager Rahman Zakaria yesterday. “I believe our chief coach Drago Mamic and his coaching staff have a winning strategy for the clash. At the same time, Rahman wants the team to temporarily forget for the moment about what is happening in the Premier League.

“Let us switch our focus on this competition. This is a different ball game, and we must try to gain as much advantage for the return leg. We have our supporters waiting for us, and a good result would surely give us the edge for the return leg,” Rahman said. Sabah marched into the last eight after notching a 4-3 aggregate win over Police, while Pahang booked their quarterfinal ticket by defeating Premier League leaders 2-0 on aggregate.

In the other quarters, Selangor will take on Kuala Muda Naza. Ironically, both teams are sitting in second place in the Super League and Premier League respectively.

The other match will see Terengganu take on Felda United with the odds on Terengganu to march on. The return leg of the quarterfinals will be played on August 22.

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