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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sabah, Kedah share points

KOTA KINABALU: Nine-man Sabah fought their hearts out to deservedly share the spoils with reigning champions Kedah in an explosive Malaysia Cup Group B encounter that ended three-all at the Likas Stadium last night.

Defender Wong Sai Kong turned hero when his spectacular dipping shot from about 40 metres salvaged the valuable one point for the home side.

The Rhinos were forced to play with two men lesser in the remaining 23 minutes of the game following the double sending off of Dragic Dalibor and flanker Hishamuddin Othman.

The referee Ibrahim Muhamad may have been right in showing Hishamuddin with his second yellow card for what was seen as retaliation after he was fouled by Nelson Sam Martin, who was also given a yellow card.

But in Dragic’s case, the Bosnia-Herzegovina defender was controversially given the marching orders as he certainly did not deserve the second booking for what seemed to be his protesting against the referee’s decision.

The fact is, he was not the only player protesting or rather complaining and this was one of the many bad calls made by the man in black.

For the record, both Dragic and Hishamuddin were given the first yellow cards earlier in the first half.

Sabah started the game aggressively, but it was Kedah who had the first try in the match when Mohd Khyril Muhymeen found space inside the box before unleashing a shot at the Sabah goalmouth, but Irwan Jamil was alert to block the latter’s close range 3rd minute attempt.

Sabah’s first chance came in the 8th minute through Nigerian David Njoku, who shot straight at the keeper Mohd Helmi Eliza Elias.

Sabah deservedly took the lead after 18th minutes through Bobby Gonzales who coolly unleashed a grounder from just outside the penalty box that defeated Mohd Helmi.

In the 34th minute, Kedah could have equalised when Marlon James fed the unmarked Mohd Khyril inside the Sabah box, but Hishamuddin’s saved the day for Sabah as he sneaked from behind and cleared the ball before Mohd Khyril could take a shot at the Sabah goalmouth.

But Kedah were not to be denied an equaliser in the 37th minute when this time Mohd Khyril was there to easily tap in the ball past the hapless Irwan after receiving a cross from Badrol Bakhtiar from the left.

Sabah were presented the opportunity to restore their lead in the 40th minute when Zainizam Marjan fed David with a superb through ball.

However, the Nigerian youngster, despite only having the keeper to beat squandered the golden chance as his attempt went wide.

However, David made amends five minutes later as he finally put his name on the score sheet when he slotted home Sabah’s second from inside the box, but this time it was Wong Sai Kong the provider, to eventually end the half with Sabah leading 2-1.

After the breather, Sabah were stunned again when Mohd Khyril netted his second with a bicycle kick five minutes into the second half.

And in the 67th minute things looked gloomy for Sabah when they were slapped with a double sending off of Dragic and Hishamuddin.

The worst was expected when Marlon finally put the defending champions into the lead for the first time with his 71st minute header.

Salutes must be given to the remaining nine Rhinos as they fought their hearts out and their never-say-die attitude paid off when Wong Sai Kong put them on level terms in the 74th minute with a dipping shot that caught Mohd Helmi off guard.

With the draw, Sabah moved from the bottom to fifth in the six-team standings as Penang went down 1-3 to Johor FC in another Group B tie.

Police toppled Kuala Lumpur from the top spot after thrashing the latter 7-0 at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras. Sabah’s next game is an away tie against the high riding Police on Thursday.

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