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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Juniors close the gap

New Sabah Times
GOAL-SCORER … Hafizan (No 17) being mobbed by teammates after netting the opener for Sabah in the 10th minute.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabahawks Juniors are clinging to their slim hope of making the quarter-finals after registering a narrow 1-0 win over Perlis in a President’s Cup challenge at the Likas Stadium yesterday. The slim win has helped them close the gap with Penang, who occupy the last slot for the last eight. The Sabahawks Juniors went into yesterday’s game trailing by six points from the Islanders, but now it has been reduced to three points, as the Islanders succumbed to a 2-0 defeat away to Pahang, also played yesterday.

However, the Sabahawks Juniors are not alone in fighting for a place in the quarter-finals. Negeri Sembilan too have an equal chance to pip Penang from the eighth spot. They won 2-1 away to Perak (yesterday) and are still level on 41 points with the Sabahawks Juniors, but they stay ahead in ninth place on superior goal difference.

 The defeat to Pahang has left Penang stagnant on 44 points. “Our chances are now quite slim because we need to depend on the results of teams above us. The only thing we can do now is to do a good job in our remaining matches, otherwise it will be very difficult to make it through,” said head coach Justin Ganai when met after the Perlis match yesterday.

 “There are only five matches left to play, and we just cannot afford any slip ups. So I want the players to be strong and give all they could to the team,” he added, before revealing that he will not have the services of his defender Rawilson Batiul for the next three games. “He collected his ninth yellow card of the season today (yesterday), which would mean he would have to serve a three-match suspension. “His absence has more or less weakened our backline.

Nevertheless, I hope the player that we are going to pick to fill in the vacuum left by Rawilson will do a good job,” said Justin. Yesterday, the Sabahawks Juniors have Hafizan Jahar to thank for after the flanker slotted home the solitary goal of the day in the 10th minute. He finished off a superb effort by midfielder Sabri Sahar, who dribbled past two defenders before sending a perfect cross for Hafizan to blast home, which turned out to be the winner.

 But they also have keeper Robson Rendy to thank for, for making some brilliant saves. “He was outstanding today (yesterday). As you can see, he made quite a number of superb saves. But today, was not the only day he had performed well for the team. He has done exceptionally well in our last few games too,” said Justin. Sabahawks Juniors take on Selangor away on Thursday.

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