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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Sabah start with a win

Daily Express

Kota Kinabalu: Two goals from right back Shahrul Azhar Ture in either half guided Sabah to a 2-1 win over KL Spa Putrajaya in their opening 2013 Premier League match at the Likas Stadium on Monday afternoon. It was a poor show by the home team as they were outplayed by their young opponents with no imports in the team.

 They were lucky to escape embarrassment and had to thank their new custodian Shahril Sa'ari who produced a sterling performance to save the day for Sabah. Sabah opened the scoring first in the 5th minute courtesy of a free-kick just outside the box which was converted by Shahrul after he shot through the defensive wall.

 The goal however, failed to calm the side as KL Spa started to make their presence felt soon after that and had the Sabah defence working overtime trying to cover for the ineffective midfield. And it was in one of their raids that resulted in an own goal by Rhys David Weston in the 28th minute after a communication breakdown between him and keeper Shahril.

 Despite being on the defensive, Sabah had a chance to reclaim the lead in the 32nd minute but a very poor penalty taken by Sahrudin Yakub was easily saved by the Spa keeper. The introduction of Zainizam Marjan at the start of the second half replacing Sabri Saher seemed to work in the beginning but poor crosses again let the team down as the strike duo of Koh Traore and Kahrul Izwan Khalid were denied any decent passes.

The team were given a lucky break when a penalty was given in the 71st minute over tugging of the shirt by one of the Spa players on Koh in the box. This time it was Shahrul who stepped up and he made no mistake to put Sabah 2-1 up. However, the players had to endure a torrid time towards the end of the match as the Spa players refused to concede defeat and the crowd were left holding their breath until the referee blew the whistle.

 Coach David McCreery who was absent from the bench due to a three-match suspension by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) for failure to attend a seminar recently because of miscommunication said he was disappointed with the game but happy with the result. "I was definitely disappointed with the performance but it was the first game and the players got through it and I have to be happy with the three points." 

He said the immediate measure he needs to work on is the crossing which was poor throughout. "The players practiced it on Sunday and the day before and it was excellent and today they just didn't produce. I guess it was just one of those days and we need to work more on that."

 He also commented on the team almost conceding a late equaliser. "I know we have a young team but they need to be mature enough to know when to close the game down. It was no point to chase another goal towards the end of the match as more often than not, instead of 3-1 up it ended 2-2 and the players need to learn from the experience."

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