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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

BATTLE FOR PRIDE


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah are out to salvage some lost pride when they take on reigning champions Kedah in their penultimate Malaysia Cup Group B challenge at the Darul Aman Stadium tonight.

At the same time, they are also determined to play the “spoiler role” after missing out on a place in the quarter-finals.

The 1-3 away defeat to Johor FC last Saturday ended Sabah’s quarter-final hopes. Rahman Zakaria said they will not make life easy for Kedah, who are pretty much in the race for a place in the quarters.

“We will continue to fight despite the fact that we have conceded defeat in our chase for a place in the last eight,” the Rhinos’ team manager said.

“We want to finish in a respectable position in the group.

“We don’t want to be at the bottom of the table and we will fight on,” Rahman vowed.

Sabah will go into the game fifth in the six-team table on seven points and are out of reach for one of the two top positions in the group with Police and Johor FC both on 14 points.

And with only 13 points the most they could collect, their hopes of securing the two best-ranked third placed teams is as good as over as other teams, with a game in hand, are certain to add to their points.

“We have to be realistic and the current situation does not favour us.

“All that is left with the team is to fight for our pride and not to finish last in the group. We will do our best in the two matches starting with Kedah,” he added.

Rahman hoped that the players can repeat the feat in their six-goal thriller in the first round meeting at the Likas Stadium where the tie ended three-all.

It was considered as the Rhinos’ best performance in the tournament.

Against the favourites, Sabah twice took the lead through Bobby Gonzales and striking partner David Njoku but Mohd Khyril Zambri equalised on both occasions.

There was more drama late in the game as the double sending offs of Hishamuddin Othman and Dragic Dalidor forced Sabah to play with nine men in the last 23 minutes.

With the numerical advantage, Kedah hitman Marlon James headed the defending champions into the lead. A goal and two men down, Sabah were destined for a home defeat, but Wong Sai Kong produced a moment of brilliance to level the score with a spectacular 40-metre dipping shot to eventually end the game in a draw.

But tonight, Sabah will have a depleted backline following the suspension of Ahmad Tharmini Saiban, who was given the marching orders in the last game.

Striker Salvester Sindeh is also out as he is facing a lengthy suspension after being involved in a fight in the 1-2 defeat to Kuala Lumpur.

The duo are not the only key players to miss the clash as Brazilian striker Andre Scotti Ossemer is still a doubtful starter due to injury and the same goes for Chow Chee Wing.

With at least five key players missing the trip, it looks like it is going to be a tall order for the team to snatch at least a point from the clash.

After the Kedah game, Sabah will conclude their Group B fixtures at home to Police on Aug 2.

The Malaysia Cup remains elusive for Sabah despite featuring in the 1996, 2002 and 2003 finals.

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