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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Winners take all

New Sabah Times
HE’S THE MAN … File picture of Koh Traore (left) against Sarawak last week. He will be the man Sabah will be counting on to pounce on the goals for the team.
KOTA KINABALU: It will be a case of the winners take all when four teams battle it out for the two remaining slots for the Malaysia Cup competition, which will be played at neutral venues tonight. This is a one-off thing for the two Super League sides KL Felda Utd FC and Negeri Sembilan and their Premier League opponents – Sabah and KL Pos Malaysia.

 The first playoff between KL Felda United FC will be played at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil while at the Shah Alam Stadium, Sabah will be pitted against Negeri Sembilan. For the record, KL Felda United FC finished 11th in the Super League while Negeri Sembilan languished at the bottom of the 12-team standings. As for Sabah, they concluded their season in fifth, while KL Pos Malaysia FC in sixth. Both the playoff matches will kick off at 9.45pm due to the fasting month, which starts today.

 The playoffs will be played at neutral venues tonight with KL Felda Utd FC, who finished 11th in the Super League, taking on KL Pos Malaysia FC, who ended their campaign in sixth, at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil. Sabah caretaker coach Johnny Dominicus has called on his charges to come out with all guns blazing against their opponents.

 “We must give our fullest concentration in the game because there is no room for the slightest of errors. At the same time, we must go all out because this is a do-or-die mission,” Johnny said when contacted yesterday. “Furthermore, this is the last venue for us to make amends, and we must do everything we can to qualify … so we will be treating this like a final match,” he added.

 To a question, he said: “Although they (Negeri Sembilan) may be languishing at the bottom of the standings, but they are one of the big names in the national football scene. Maybe this time, they are not doing so well because there are so many good teams in the Super League.” “It will be a big problem for us if we try to underestimate them.

We need to be cautious and play as a team if we are to make the Malaysia Cup,” he added. Johnny, who has been in charge of the team for about two weeks or so following the shock departure of head coach David McCreery said he is quite optimistic of getting the better of their opponents. “I don’t know much about them (Negeri Sembilan) apart from watching them on television.

However, based on their statistics, I think our chances of getting there is quite bright. But having said that, I predict that this is going to be a tough night for us,” said Johnny, who is convinced that his players will do a good job tonight. This season, Negeri Sembilan only managed to win once and that was their 2-1 victory over Armed Forces last May.

They registered seven draws and suffered 14 defeats. They also have the worst scoring record in the Super League with only 11 goals and conceding 28. As for Sabah, they won nine matches, drew thrice and lost 10. They scored a total of 42 goals, but conceded 46. On his squad, Johnny revealed that all his players are available for options, except for Leopold Alfonso Otong, who missed the trip to the national capital due to suspension.

 “He collected his third yellow card against Sarawak, so he will serve his automatic one-match suspension,” said Johnny. He revealed that his two foreign players – striker in chief Koh Traore, who has 24 goals to his credit thus far, and midfielder Abdelfatah Safi, are certain to start the game, so as first choice custodian Shahril Sa’ari, Rosdin Wasli, Zainizam Marjan, Mohd Fazilidin Khalid, Alto Linus and Sharil Faisal.

 Johnny said Shahrul Azhar Ture will be back from injury and would regain his first team place by filling in the vacuum left by Leopold. At left back, he said he will pick from either Sumardi Hajalan or Julamri Muhammad while Shahrudin Yakup would start at the right of midfield.

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