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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Still not up to the mark

By FRANCIS XAVIER Francis@newsabahtimes.com.my
FIRST PREMIER LEAGUE MATCH OF THE SEASON … Prince Tochukwu Nnake (left), and UiTM FC’s Zulkhairi (right), during the match last Friday.
 KOTA KINABALU: It was not the start that any team would want, but the Sabah Rhinos got to admit the fact that they are not ready for the new Premier League season. Disgraceful defeats in their opening two fixtures say it all that Vjeran Simunic and his boys are still not up to the mark. They lost 1-4 to UiTM FC in the opener last Friday, and on Monday, they went down to Kuantan FA with an identical scoreline.

 Both of Sabah Rhinos’ opponents used to be the whipping boys of the Premier League, and this time around, they sounded an early warning to the rest of the teams that they mean business. They are among the only five sides that remain unbeaten. UiTM FC lead the standings on maximum six points ahead of second placed Kuala Lumpur on better goal difference.

 Kuantan FA are in third on four points. Fourth placed Negeri Sembilan and fifth placed Melaka United are also on four points, but the three teams are only separated by goal difference. On the other hand, Sabah Rhinos are on the wrong side of the standings and are currently languishing at bottom. Commenting on their latest defeat, Simunic said: “We played very well for 70 minutes but we couldn’t last the entire match.

 The Croatian named an unchanged side for the second straight away match and it seemed to have work wonders in the opening half when flanker Maxsius Musa showed great awareness to head home the opening goal on 37 minutes that justified their good display. However, Dao Bakary levelled the tie for the hosts from a penalty after 65 minutes of play, which proved to be the start of Sabah Rhinos downfall in the game.

 Three goals in the last 10 minutes from Abdul Malik Mat Arif (83rd and 87th minutes) and Bakary (89th minute) sealed the three points for Kuantan FA. “We did not deserve this kind of scoreline but this is football. Our formation crumbled going into the last 20 minutes which is questionable to me,” Simunic added. “We hope to rectify this problem going into our FA Cup tie against KL MOF in Kota Kinabalu this Saturday,” said Simunic, as his side will switch their focus to the FA Cup challenge this Saturday where they will take on FAM Cup club side KL MOF FC at the Likas Stadium, which will be their first home game of the season.

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