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Friday, February 10, 2012

Sharpen claws

New Sabah Times
MICHAEL … will be sitting out his one-match suspension in the game against Kedah.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabahawks need to sharpen their claws if they harbour any hope to go places in the ongoing Super League. This is a fact admitted by team manager Hj Shahriman Abdullah, who concurred that the team certainly needs to do some polishing work in their finishing.

 “I have spoken to our head coach (Justin Ganai) and I have asked him to look into our finishing. I have asked him to practice more on shooting,” said Shahriman when contacted yesterday. After six games into the season, Sabah merely managed to score in two out of the six games they have played.

 They scored twice in the 2-1 win over Sarawak where Australian signings Michael Baird and Bobby Gonzales netted once each. The other match was the two-all draw against Selangor PKNS where they fought their way back from 0-2 down before Michael and Shahrudin Yakup helped their side to nick a point from the away clash by scoring a goal each late in the game.

 The goal average ratio may not be convincing, but fortunately for Sabah, it is still early in the season, and they still have time to change things around. On Wednesday, Sabah failed to find the net again after holding mighty Kelantan to a stalemate in Likas.

 They managed to create numerous chances to win the game with the best one came in injury time. Substitute Leopold Alfonso Otong must be cursing his luck as his thunderous shot from about 20 metres out hit the goalpost before it went out.
 “I think it was one of our best games so far. Overall, the players have done quite well. Unfortunately, we were facing the number one goalkeeper (Khairul Fahmi Che Mat) in the country, and if not, I think we could have put one behind at the back of their net,” said Shahriman. Shahriman said he was happy to see that the team is getting better with each game.
 “We have shown good progress from game to game. And I hope the players maintain this and try their best to improve as a team or individuals. “I’m also thankful to all the fans for the support they have given to the team. The number increases with each game,” said Shahriman, while expressing his surprise that only about 8,000 tickets were sold for the game against Kelantan. “I estimated that more than 10,000 fans turned up for the match and I wonder how the rest of them managed to get in,” he quipped. Meanwhile, Justin said that he was satisfied with the point. “Although we managed to hold them to a scoreless draw, and created goal-scoring chances, I believe that the players have done the best they could, and I must congratulate them for that,” said Justin. “I hope that in our upcoming games, we will be able to score goals and get the maximum points as needed,” he added. Asked on the penalty claim, Justin refused to comment much, apart from saying that maybe in the eyes of the match official it was not a penalty, but admitted that contact was made. On the other hand, Kelantan coach Peter Butler said that it was a fair result for both sides. Butler, who is also a former Sabah coach, added: “I thought we had the first chance … I think we missed two great chances and I thought overall it is probably a fair result for both teams.” “I’m not disappointed with the draw, and in fact I’m quite happy to share the points and go back to Kelantan unbeaten. “I think from that point of view, you know and must understand that you can’t always win games. You have to show a lot of respect to teams like Sabah, who have fantastic fighting spirit. Actually, it was great to see a good crowd at the Likas Stadium tonight, and their players will create a lot of problems for other teams here. To a question, Butler was also tight-lipped when asked to comment on the referee. He said: “I don’t really want to comment about the referee. I don’t want to get into trouble. It is best for me to be quiet.” On his two foreign signings, whom he substituted late on in the game, Butler said: “I don’t really want to comment about their performances. We got a new player coming (Obinna Nwaner) and he is not fit, but I’m happy that he could play for 72 minutes instead of 45.” Kelantan’s other foreign signing is Mohamed Ghadar, a striker. And it was a costly point for Sabah as they will be without striker Michael Baird for their away tie to Kedah on Saturday. The Aussie was left behind when the team left for Alor Star yesterday after picking up his third yellow card of the season in the Kelantan game, which means a one-match automatic suspension. His services will certainly be missed, as he is one of the most consistent lot among his teammates with his tireless runs. After the tie against Kedah, Sabah take on Kuala Lumpur at home on Tuesday.

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