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Monday, February 29, 2016

Sabah must buck up!

MATCH PREVIEW By FRANCIS XAVIER Francis@newsabahtimes.com.my

 KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Rhinos, who are still without a point after 270 minutes of Premier League action, had better buck up! Failing to do so may see them not only miss the boat to the prestigious Malaysia Cup competition, but could also face demotion to the country’s third tier, the FAM Cup League.

 For the record, Sabah Rhinos have not made it into the Malaysia Cup in the last three seasons. This time around, the country’s oldest competition will start in July and run concurrently with the second half of the Malaysian Super League season. Only the top 11 Super League teams and the top five from the Premier League at the halfway mark of the season (11 games) will make the cut. Unless they can start to turn things around, it is likely that they will miss the boat to the Malaysia Cup once again.

Yes, it may be only three matches into the season, but things don’t seem to be going their way at least in the opening three matches where they suffered three defeats in a row. They lost 1-4 in the opener to the current league leaders UiTM FC, followed by the loss to Kuantan FA with an identical scoreline.

Both were away matches. Tonight, they will take on Kuala Lumpur in another away tie at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium. They will be heading into the 9pm game at the back of their 2-0 home defeat to DRB-Hicom FC. On paper, they have the edge over the City Boys. Last season, they won both encounters.

 They registered a 2-0 win in their opening game before edging them 1-0 at the Likas Stadium in the return tie. But this season, Kuala Lumpur seem to be a rejuvenated side. So far, they have had a good start to their season. They are currently third in the standings. They won twice and drew once in the opening three games and are currently level on points with the top two teams, leaders UiTM FC and Melaka United, but separated by goal difference.

 For Sabah Rhinos, it is still not too late to make a turnaround and make a top-five finish at the end of the first round challenge, albeit that they can start to pick up the points starting from now. Head coach Vjeran Simunic is bringing the same 18 players against DRB-Hicom FC. They are Rozaimie Rohim, Prince Tochukwu Nnake, Maxsius Musa, Radzi Mohd Hussin, Leopold Alfonso Otong, Julamri Muhammad, Dedi Kusnandar, Marco Tulio Lopes Silva, Igor Cerina, Rawilson Batuil, Alto Linus, Mohd Fadzley Abdul Rahim, Mohd Azzizan Nordin, Shafie Talip, Mohd Badrul Affendy, Shafuan Adli Shaari, Umareng Bachok, Muhammad Nazri Ahmad.

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