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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Results throw Group B challenge wide open

KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos can now breathe a sigh of relief at least for the time being after finally notching their first win on Friday in the ongoing Malaysia Cup competition.

The hard-fought 2-1 victory over Johor FC has given them new hope of fighting for a place in the quarterfinals in the Group B challenge.

Anything less than a win could have virtually ended the Rhinos’ challenge but now their chances are as good as any of the teams in the group.

Having said that, consistency will still play a key factor on how far they can progress in the country’s most prestigious competition.

And with none of the teams in the group yet to show any form of consistency, it’s still anybody’s guess which teams deserve to march into the next round, especially after a night of upset results on Friday that has thrown the Group B challenge wide open.

Kuala Lumpur stunned defending champions Kedah 1-0 at the Darul Aman Stadium in Alor Star, while Police edged Pulau Pinang 3-1.

The updated Group B standings have Kuala Lumpur in the lead with six points followed by Police (five), Johor FC (four), Kedah (four) and Pulau Pinang (three).

Sabah, whom despite the victory, remain bottom of the group on three points.

“After what had transpired on Friday, all six teams remain on course for a place in the quarterfinals,” an upbeat Rhinos’ team manager Rahman Zakaria said.

“We may be bottom of the group but the points are so tight that we can’t say who has the better chances to qualify.

“We are only three points behind the top teams and that says much about the group … we will do our best,” he added.

The Malaysia Cup group stage is divided into three groups of six teams each where the top two and the two best-ranked third placed teams advance into the last eight.

“Now what we need is consistency. As long as we can do it I’m optimistic we will make it into the knockout stage,” said Rahman.

“The team had a good game but there is room for improvement … I don’t think they have reached their potential yet,” he said of the Rhinos’ victory.

“More games are needed and hopefully they will improve as the competition progresses,” he added.

“I hope it is the beginning of a more positive road ahead. Credit to the players, they performed with steely determination and showed the will to win.

“I like to remind them (the players) not to get carried away by the win. They must focus hard during the remaining matches … nothing is impossible to achieve,” he said, while thanking the support from the die-hard Rhinos’ fans.

Rahman was also furious with the referee for failing to send off Andres Fuentes Gustavo who shoved Ahmad Tharmini Saiban on the face before kicking at Dragic Dalibor in an off-the-ball incident.

Gustavo received a yellow card for the second offence.

Earlier, Gustavo gave the visiting side the lead in the 27th minute, before Hishamuddin Othman levelled from a curling free-kick in the 36th minute.

Striker Salvester Sindeh then displayed some good ball control to slide the ball home for the winner in the 57th minute.

However, Salvester will sit out the next match after being sent off for two bookable offences.

The Rhinos will face recently crowned Super League and FA Cup champions Kedah at the Likas Stadium on Monday (June 30).

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