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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sabahawks on ‘Mission Impossible’

New Sabah Times

KOTA KINABALU: It looks like Sabah will be on a ‘Mission Impossible’ when they take on Selangor in a penultimate Super League tie at the Shah Alam Stadium tonight. The State senior squad needs to win their remaining two matches to stand any chance of surviving or at least earning a place in the relegation playoff. 

However, it seems that the task is a little bit too uphill for them, especially when they are taking on a side that is still fighting for the last qualifying spot for the 2013 AFC Cup. Furthermore, they are playing away from home, and their poor away record, having yet to win this season, gives them little hope of returning home with the points.

 Sabah is currently occupying one of the two relegation spots together with the already-relegated Kuala Lumpur, who languish at the bottom of the table. However, they are level on 25 points with Kedah, who is occupying one of the relegation playoff spots. Although, mathematically, they do still have a fighting chance to survive the battle, but the big question mark is can they produce the result?

 They have been struggling since day one of the league before things turned for the worse when they were humiliated 9-0 away by Singapore Lions XII on June 15. The humiliation saw Justin Ganai being removed as the head coach and his assistant Andrew Majanggim was put in as caretaker coach after a fruitless search for Justin’s long-term replacement.

 But the inexperienced Andrew could not halt the slide, as they suffered two consecutive defeats at the hands of Selangor PKNS at home (4-0) and 2-0 away to Kelantan after the humiliation by Singapore. Although they were given a survival lifeline by winning their next two games against Kedah (1-0) and Kuala Lumpur (4-2), but it was just a temporary respite, as they went on to suffer two defeats in a row. They lost 2-1 to Johor FC away, but the 3-1 home defeat to Terengganu compounded their misery in the relegation battle.

 So tonight, there is nothing much one could expect from the team other than to accept the fact that the Premier League looms for the State squad. When contacted yesterday, Andrew hinted of making a minor reshuffle to his first team by bringing in the nippy Omopor to partner national Under-22 striker Md Rozaimi Abd Rahman to spearhead the attack.

 He is also set to name Syed Adney Syed Hussien as his ball stopper replacing Azizon Abd Kadir. While the rest of the players that started the Terengganu game are expected to be retained with Shahrul Azhar Ture at right-back, Razid Gapar and Md Reithuddin at the centre and Zul Mansshah Aling at left.

 In midfield, Shahrudin Yakup will start at the right, with Hendrik Helmke and Radzi Mohd Hussin at the centre and K. Thanaraj left. And Andrew hopes that his chargers will be more clinical in their finishing tonight. “Three points is a must. So I hope the players will try to create as many chances as possible, and try to finish them off. Even if it is half chances, we must try to translate it into goals,” he said.

 “In our previous matches, we had a lot of hunger to score goals, but lack of sharpness in front of goal caused us the games. Andrew also hoped that the players will go all out and fight for their lives throughout the tie. “Complacency is unacceptable. We must also try to minimise unforced individual errors,” said Andrew.

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