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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Juniors, Pahang share the spoils

New Sabah Times
THE EQUALISER … Zul Mansshah (blue/red) is tackled from behind by Pahang defender Iskandar during their President’s Cup second round opener at the Likas Stadium yesterday./td>
KOTA KINABALU: Sabahawks Juniors failed to avenge their first round defeat to Pahang after being held to a two-all draw in a President’s Cup second round opener at the Likas Stadium yesterday. Five days ago, the State Under-21 squad went down 0-2 to the same side in the first round final fixture, and yesterday, they were hoping for revenge, before being forced to share the spoils.

 The host started strongly, and could have taken a fourth-minute lead, but unfortunately, flanker, Umareng Bacok saw his close range header palmed away by the steady Pahang custodian Khairul Nizam for a fruitless corner by the Sabahawks Juniors. Three minutes later, it was Pahang who broke the deadlock in their very first attempt.

 Poor marking by Sabahawks Juniors on the right side of their backline allowed Mohd Sharul Aizad to go one-on-one with Sabahawks Juniors custodian Endre S. Tipay, who failed to stop Sharul’s low drive from 10 yards out. In the 19th minute, Sabahawks Juniors were denied the equaliser when Zul Mansshah’s 35-metre freekick hit the crossbar.

 As the match approached the half-hour mark, the host were awarded a penalty kick after Zul Mansshah was brought down by Iskandar Zulkarnaen inside the penalty box. Zul Mansshah stepped up and took the spot kick by sending a powerful grounder that left the Pahang custodian hapless. Then Umareng made it 2-1 for Sabahawks Juniors four minutes before half time.

 Umareng lobbed the ball past the onrushing Khairul after receiving a superb pass from Didie Arizal Ibrahim. However, the Sabahawks Juniors’ celebration was short-lived as Pahang scored the leveller through Mohd Shafie Zahari two minutes later. The first half ended two-all. Both teams failed to increase their goal tally in the second half with the visiting Pahang having the better of the half, but were denied the three points for poor finishing.

 Sabahawks Juniors head coach Justin Ganai when met after the match, said they are left with no choice but to continue fighting. “I tried all my strikers who are fit to play, but it seems that when we managed to score goals, our defence looked fragile, as you saw today,” said Justin.

 “I guess, we have to look for the right remedy and keep fighting for a place in the quarter-finals,” he added. For the record, that was the ninth time that the Sabahawks Juniors had to share the spoils with their opponents. They have the most drawn games among all teams in the competition. They managed to win five while their other four matches ended in defeats.

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