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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Nizam: Soldier on!

By FRANCIS XAVIER Francis@newsabahtimes.com.my

 KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Rhinos are heading for their worst start to their Premier League campaign. They remain winless after 360 minutes of Premier League action. The 2-3 defeat to Kuala Lumpur at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium on Monday was their fourth in a row. Prior to the clash, they lost 1-4 to UiTM FC in the season opener, followed by the defeat to Kuantan FA with an identical scoreline.

 After the two away defeats, they went down 0-2 at home to DRB-Hicom FC. Sabah Rhinos, along with Armed Forces (ATM), are the only two sides in the 12-team league that have yet to collect a single point. The two sides, who occupy the relegation spots, are only separated by goal difference. Nothing seems right for the state side at the moment as they have suffered defeat after defeat. Their loyal fans are already calling for changes to be made into the team.

 And they have every right to do so. Despite the disastrous start to their campaign, the team still have the full backing from team manager Datuk Nizam Abu Bakar Titingan, who insisted that the team will get out of trouble waters, sooner rather than later. He said the players have given quite a show this season, especially against Kuala Lumpur, but it seems that lady luck is shying away from the team.
 “As the team manager, I’m very disappointed and I feel the pressure with this defeat, but we cannot give up just yet because our journey is still long. “The players have shown that they are capable of giving a good fight (against Kuala Lumpur) especially after we were trailing 2-0. But maybe luck was not on our side to at least settle for a draw.

So now, we need to continue to think positive and improve as individuals as well as a team,” said Nizam when contacted yesterday. He added that what is important for them now is for the team to stay united and maintain the spirit to redeem themselves in the coming matches. “We have learnt a lot of lessons from our previous games, and I think it is time for the players to be more focused towards their game and avoid making silly mistakes.

 “Our defensive players as well as our goalkeeper need to up their game and make sure that they don’t concede goals. I also hope that our foreign players will give their best in helping the team out from this slumber,” he said. Nizam also admitted that the team, especially the young players, need a little more time, to be more matured in their game.

 “Majority of our players are young and I’m confident this team can go far. Maybe we need a little more time to prove it to the fans.” Against Kuala Lumpur, Sabah Rhinos head coach Simunic made two changes to his starting line-up by restoring Mohd Fadzley Abd Rahim for Rozaimie Rohim as the first-choice goalkeeper while giving Ummareng Bachok a start ahead of captain Julamri Muhd.

 However, it was yet another night to forget for Fadzley, who conceded eight goals in the two opening games, was beaten twice early in the match. So far, he has conceded 11 goals in three games for the team. Zhafri Yahya and Anselmo Da Silva scored in the third and fifth minutes for the hosts. In the second half, a tactical switch from Simunic seemed to do wonders when Marco Tulio reduced the deficit from the penalty spot in the 70th minute before Leopold Alfonso Otong scored the leveller three minutes later.

 With about 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Kuala Lumpur struck the killer blow to eventually seal their three points and leave Sabah Rhinos heartbroken once again. But Simunic, despite the defeat, saw something positive from the match. He said Sabah played a much better game and more importantly the team showed great fighting spirit to level the tie after trailing by two early goals. He said Azzizan Nordin was brought in for Radzi Hussin in the second half as Sabah switched to a 3-4-1-2 formation.

 The tactical switch saw Sabah give a much improved performance that led to Sabah Rhinos scoring twice. He said that defensive player Badrul (Affendy) was getting ready to replace Leopold when Kuala Lumpur scored the winning goal. Sabah will take on Malacca United in the next League game at the Likas Stadium on March 11, but before that they have a date with ATM in the third round of the FA Cup competition on May 5 at the Likas Stadium.

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