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Monday, February 22, 2016

Sabah Rhinos-Armed Forces Cup clash

BY FRANCIS XAVIER Francis@newsabahtimes.com.my

 KOTA KINABALU: 1995 winners, Sabah Rhinos have been given a relatively easy draw in the third round of the FA Cup competition. They will face off with fellow Premier League side ATM (Armed Forces) in the last 16. This is seen as their best opportunity to make it to the quarter-finals, a feat they last achieved in 2008.

For the record, in the last seven years, Sabah Rhinos have never made it beyond the second round. But this time, they made it after registering comfortable 3-0 win over FAM Cup campaigner KL MOF FC (Ministry of Finance Football Club) at the Likas Stadium on Saturday. The win came after a poor start to their season where they suffered embarrassing losses away to UiTM FC and Kuantan FA in their opening games.

 The third round matches are scheduled to be played on March 4 and 5, and Sabah Rhinos will again play host to their ATM opponent, likely to be on March 5. In the match against the Ministry of Finance Football Club, a blunder by their keeper Razi Affendi Suhut saw Sabah Rhinos take a fifth minute lead when his clearance hit the on-rushing Sabah Rhinos leading striker Prince Tochukwu Nnake which rebounded and went into the back of the net.

 Sabah Rhinos were 2-0 up a minute after the break, and this time, it was another easy goal for Nnake as he headed home from close range by finishing off an early effort from Leopold Alfonso Otong. At the hour mark, Leopold was the provider again as his assist saw the nippy Maxsius Musa score the third for Sabah Rhinos that eventually sealed their win over their foreign-less opponent.

 In the third round, they will also take on an ATM side that has opted not to hire any foreign players. The victory gave Sabah Rhinos head coach Vjeran Simunic a sigh of relief. The Croatian, who is into his first season with the team, admitted that after two ugly defeats, he was under pressure to deliver the results, and that he was thankful the team did a good job.

 “As I have said earlier, we cannot make a team overnight,” Simunic said. “Before the game, we were all under pressure (to produce results). So we were going into the game “die or stay alive’ in our mind. “The result could have been different if we were unlucky, but tonight, we were lucky. “Believe me, we played a good game against Kuantan, and we lost 4-1, tonight we won 3-0.

“Happy with my team … they played well and showed great fighting spirit throughout the game. “But I cannot promise that we must win. If we say we can win, then everybody will win. It was one fantastic performance and they ran for 90 minutes,” he added. “Last time although we made more chances than tonight, we only managed to score one, and that’s football.

He also hailed his midfielder, Radzi Mohd Hussin for an excellent game. “In our last four games, including tonight (Saturday) and against Felda, Gatuso (Radzi) was our important player. We also give chances to Rexjeson (Pitirus), Umai (Umareng Bachok) and we are moving forward. “But Radzi for is one of the special players in the team because he is one of the few experienced players that we have in the team.

We also have Alto (Linus), Julamri (Muhammad) and Leopold,” Simunic said. He also revealed he decided not to field Brazilian midfielder Marco Tulio Lopes Silva as the latter is having hamstring problem. “I don’t want to take the risk because we have another big game coming up,” he said referring to their Premier League home tie against KL DRB-Hicom on February 26.

 On his decision to bring in second choice custodian Rozaimie Rohim to replace his no 1 goalkeeper, Mohd Fadzley Abdul Rahim, he said: “After conceding eight goals … it was time for a change. The ugly result put us under pressure. And this was one of the changes we made to do it,” he said.

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