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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Positive development

By FRANCIS XAVIER Francis@newsabahtimes.com.my
AIRBORNE ... Maxsius Musa (all white), jumps high as he heads home a superb cross from Leopold Alfonso Otong to break the deadlock inside the first quarter of the tie.
 KOTA KINABALU: The signs are there for all to see that the Sabah Rhinos will have to do it the hard way in their search for Premier League glory this season. There will be no easy battle for them this time around but to fight their hearts out in all their matches if they harbour any hope to do well. After all they are a new-look side where more than half of the players are new faces, with only seven retained from the 2015 squad.

 Teamwork, discipline, commitment as well as fighting spirit are among the key elements they must have to achieve their goals. Things are developing positively within the team, which is a good indication. They registered a 3-0 win over local outfit Juta FC in a friendly match at the Keningau Sports Complex field on Tuesday.

 Team manager Datuk Nizam Abu Bakar Titingan is happy to see the positive development in the team, especially local talents, who have shown quite a game in the tie. “Our local players put up a convincing performance in the tie and this shows that they are ready to spearhead the challenge this season. “I hope they will continue to strive harder to improve as a team or individually. Although we have not set any high target, but I can see that they are all in high spirits to make Sabah proud,” said Nizam when met after the match.

 In the tie, head coach Vjeran Simunic started the game with six local players namely Leopold Alfonso Otong, Julamri Muhammad, Alto Linus, Maxsius Musa, Rawilson Batuil and Radzi Hussin. The rest that made the first team are Perak-born goalkeeper Mohd Fadzley, Croatian defender Igor Cerina, midfielders Marco Tulio Lopes of Brazil and former Indonesian captain Dedi Kusnandar and Nigerian striker Prince Tochukwu Nnake. Sabah Rhinos were leading 1-0 at half time with a Maxsius Musa header from a Leopold assist.

After the break, Maxsius netted his second, but this time it was Nnake the provider before former Reserve League flanker Umareng Bachok sealed the win late on. Meanwhile, Simunic said that he was delighted to have come to Keningau to play the game and present the state team to the Interior public. “I think it is not how we expected. We expected to make one friendly game, we expected to present ourselves to our fans because our fans are not only from Kota Kinabalu, our fans are from all over the state so I’m very happy that we visited this town.

 “I’m a little disappointed that the field was not so good to make a better presentation but even though the pitch was not 100 per cent good, but I think we gave a good performance. “We scored only three goals but we had many chances. Also I must congratulate the opponents as they did a good job against us and I think the fans, I don’t know how many thousands, but I think they enjoyed it very much,” the Croatian said. To a question on his first team, Simunic said: “I think the starting 11 … I cannot speak about 11, but I can speak about 15. I think this moment I like to make 18, and all players can be on the list.”

 “Maybe we are a little short in the last line. We only have Jipun (Rawilson) and Igor and others who are not so experienced. So maybe if I can I would like to get a good stopper because I know that in Malaysia it is a problem when we the start season,” he said, while admitting that it will be a problem for the team if any of his two first choice central defenders (Jipun and Igor) are suspended or injured.

 “I’m looking for some in the President’s Cup team …. some youngsters but this team is very talented and very nice but what we need is one experienced striker who can replace Nnake and one good defender like Jipun and Igor. I don’t care about age I care about good or not players. Marco Tulio is good for us because he is an experienced player.

 Simunic said he was happy with his team, adding that they have made quite good progress after weeks of training. “Now for us the target is bringing the fans to follow us. Results will come. You cannot say now we go and win, we go step by step. “I’m not happy with the schedule. The schedule is very bad.

We will play two consecutive away matches,” said Simunic. For the record, after the UiTM opener, Sabah will take on Kuantan FA (away). “We play two games in three days away and it is not easy for this team but this team must become senior and become older overnight. “I said to the players, you are no more President’s Cup players.

You are no more youngsters. You are now big and have the personality to represent your state. You must be proud and you must also be in the situation that you are responsible. “Even today you must not fear to win, show you are top in Sabah,” added Simunic.

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