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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back to winning ways

New Sabah Times
CLOSE CALL … NS Betaria keeper Mohd Khairul Izwan makes a diving save as Sabah’s Shahrudin Yakup lurks for an opportunity during their clash at the Likas Stadium yesterday.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabahawks are back to winning ways after notching a 2-0 victory over NS Betaria in a Premier League tie at the Likas Stadium yesterday. Flanker Shahrudin Yakup put the Sabahawks in front after 21 minutes of play before an own goal by NS Betaria Tomas Chovanec sealed the homesters’ expected victory five minutes from time.

 Sabahawks put up a slightly better performance from their last home game, but it was far from convincing as things still looked pretty messy from the new-look State side. However, the back-to-back home win will certainly help inject greater confidence into the team. Both interim team manager Alijus Hj Sipil and head coach David McCreery concurred that what matters most for the team now is to win as many matches. 

Whether they do it in a beautiful or ugly way is secondary. “The most important thing is the three points, and I’m happy that they have done it,” said Alijus when met after the match. “They also managed to minimise their mistakes, which is also good to see, and obviously, it was not easy to play under those circumstances because the field was heavy due to the downpour.

 “Furthermore, this was our third game in seven days, and of course some of our players, who had played their third straight game, looked a bit tired,” Alijus said, while admitting there is still plenty of room for improvement. “Now, we have to prepare ourselves for our next game against Kuala Lumpur on Friday, and I was made to understand that he (Rhys David Weston) is recuperating well from a hamstring problem, and we are expecting him to make a comeback against Kuala Lumpur at the earliest, or against Kedah (Jan 21).

On the other hand, McCreery said that the team are getting fitter and stronger with each game. “We played a lot better than previously and I can see that the team are getting fitter and stronger,” he said. “We looked more solid at the back, and I’m happy to see that Didie (Arizal Ibrahim) is coping well, playing at the left of midfield, although that is not his position.

 “I’m happy with the result today because the league is about winning games,” said McCreery. Playing in front of only about a few hundred home fans, Sabahawks were presented with their first chance at the opponent’s goal when Shahrudin Yakup saw his shot palmed away for a corner by the NS Betaria custodian Mohd Khairul Izwan after just two minutes of play.

 He finally put the Sabahawks in front when he finished off a first attempt from Koh Traore by tapping in the ball from close range. But as the match entered the half-hour mark, Sumardi Hajalan saw his attempt from inside the penalty box go wide. After the break, Koh Traore, who put up a much better show this time, saw his powerful grounder from just outside the box cleared by the keeper for a corner.

 In the 63rd minute, Koh was in the thick of action again, and to his dismal, he saw his powerful header off a cross from Zainizam Marjan saved by the keeper yet again. And in the 66th minute, Koh had his third attempt saved by the alert custodian before Tomas put the ball into his own net in an attempt to make a clearance from a Zainizam cross.

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