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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Clash of champions

New Sabah Times
READY … from left, Rexjeson, Justin and Eyo seen at the team’s training at the Likas Stadium yesterday.
KOTA KINABALU: It will be a clash of the champions when Sabah take on Perak in a President’s Cup challenge at the Likas Stadium today. The State Under-21 side is the Sukma gold medal winners and will face the League’s defending champions in a tie that is scheduled to kick off at 4.15pm.

 To make the date more interesting, it will be a repeat final of the Sukma 2012 between the two sides that ended in favour of Sabah where the Borneo outfit emerged victors in extra time. Sabah team manager Datuk Juil Nuatim knows it is going to be a tough home tie for his boys, but insists, victory is all they aim for. “We only managed to take one point in our first home game against Melaka last week, and this time, we must get all the three points,” he said when met at the team’s light training at the Likas Stadium yesterday.

 “I believe the players are in high spirit following our 1-0 win over Kelantan on Monday, and I hope they will continue with such spirit to win matches,” he added. Head coach Justin Ganai also echoed his manager’s view, pointing out that they must try to capitalise on homeground advantage to get the better of their opponents. “This will not be an easy game. They are the defending champions.

 Their U-19 squad is also the defending champions, and this shows that they have a good development programme. “Since we know, they are a good side, we must be a little cautious in our approach, and must double our efforts. “If our players can play as a team, and play their hearts out, I’m optimistic of our chances,” Justin added. Justin also hinted that he is likely to make minor changes to the side that defeated Kelantan.

 “I will make one or two changes to the first team. I will probably play Gerald (Mojikon) at the left of midfield, taking over from Anwari (Mohd Tajuddin). “I’m also still undecided on whom to partner Rexjeson (Pitirus) in attack. It will be either Eyo (Matthew) or Mohd Alfian (Jamil). If I go for speed, I will play Alfian, but the combination between Rexjeson and Eyo looks pretty good, which I need to take into consideration when picking the right man,” said Justin.

 Justin was also happy with the partnership of Sabri Sahar and Didie Arizal Ibrahim in the middle of the park. “They are getting better in each game, although I believe that Sabri is still not at his best. I can see that he looked tired against Kelantan, and obviously, it was because he was doing fitness training with the seniors, but I hope he will have enough energy to orchestrate our midfield together with Didie tomorrow,” said Justin. For the record, Perak have won their last two battles – defeating Armed Forces (away) and Tengku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (home).

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