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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Buck up or face relegation dogfight

New Sabah Times

KOTA KINABALU: Justin Ganai finally lost his cool as he lashed out at his team following their 1-2 defeat to club side Terengganu’s T-Team in a Super League tie at the Likas Stadium on Tuesday. For the first time, the Sabahawks head coach, who has always defended his players, said that he was disappointed with his charges as well as their performances.

 “I’m disappointed with the players’ performances. It was bad and they did not play as a team. I believe this was one of the main reasons why we lost this battle,” Justin said. “You all witnessed how we played, and I’m just as disappointed as the fans … I can understand why the fans reacted because they are frustrated with the team,” he added.

 Justin must be right in that one as at times, it seemed his charges were fighting their own battle, forgetting that football is a team event, and that it needs team effort to achieve victory. This was not the first time it happened, as there are certain players who seemed to be seeking personal glory, rather than helping the team to win.

 Having said that, to be fair, it was not a totally bad outing for the team, as they made a good impression at least in the first hour before (they) eventually ran out of steam late on. The partnership of the veteran Zainizam Marjan and the untested nippy Juffrey Omopor, who made his first start of the season, in attack, looked interesting, and the duo seemed to have given the team new hopes as they troubled T-Team’s backline on numerous occasions.
Juffrey for that matter almost put the host in the lead inside the first quarter, but his inexperience saw him blast the ball wide from the edge of the six-yard box despite having only the keeper to beat. And it was only after Zainizam and Juffrey’s substitutions at the hour mark when the team looked pretty messy and without direction.

 Zainizam limped out of the field with a hamstring problem after 55 minutes of play while Juffrey, who is believed to have suffered problems on his leg, was replaced five minutes later. But even then, Sabahawks had all the chances to take the lead, but unfortunately, youngster Leopold Alfonso Otong, who came in for Zainizam, saw his close range attempt hit the crossbar.

 At that time, the score was one-all. This effort was followed by a Brendan Gan grounder that went inches wide. But a string of poor results saw the disappointed fans calling for a major improvement in the team, and some fans even showed their frustrations at Sabah FA officials at the end of the tie.

 For the record, the defeat was their second in a row, and the sixth this season. They dropped a rung down to 11th in the 14-team Super League standings. Unless the players change their attitude for the better and do it as a team, Sabahawks will find it hard to hold onto their Super League status, as next year, it is believed that the League will be reduced to 12 teams.

 So this season the bottom team will face automatic demotion while the 11th, 12th and 13th teams will have to fight for the one slot with the Premier League runners-up in a playoff. Two great goals from former national striker Mohd Fadzli Saari did the damage on the Sabahawks.

 He scored a stunner in the 28th minute but that was leveled by Sabahawks German signing Hendrik Helmke, who scored from the spot. But Fadzli struck the second with a header in the 68th minute that turned out to be the winning goal. The Sabahawks failure to get the points at home may come back to haunt them as their remaining nine games will include some of the top teams in the League.

 Sabah will next face Singapore’s Lions XII but not until June 16, and, it will not get any easier with the likes of Kelantan, Terengganu and Selangor among Sabah’s opponents. Fortunately for Justin, the League is taking a one-month break, and if the players are willing to work hard and do it as a team, finishing in the top five is still within reach!

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