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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Back with a bang

New Sabah Times

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Rhinos ended their first-round challenge on a high as they resumed their Premier League campaign from a six-week break with a comfortable 3-1 win over Negeri Sembilan at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium, Paroi on Friday.

 The victory moved them into second place in the standings by unseating Kedah, who dropped to third, after being held to a two-all draw by Selangor UiTM in another match at the Perak Stadium in Ipoh. However, both sides are level on 22 points with fourth placed Penang, who secured a 3-1 win over KL SPA Putrajaya at the City Stadium in Penang.

 The three sides are only separated by goal difference with Sabah Rhinos holding the edge. The league enters its second round this Monday with the Sabah Rhinos facing the same side again at the Likas Stadium. And expectations will be high that Mike Mulvey and his boys will get another three points from the clash.

 And it may not be as easy as one thinks, as teams or players have little time to recover having had to see action again in the space of four days. So come Monday, it will be more like a test of the fittest for both Sabah Rhinos and Negeri Sembilan. Mulvey when met after the win said that he was happy with the performance put up by his players, insisting that he could not ask for more.

 “Look you have six weeks off and you are going to be a little bit rusty and we were at times tonight (Friday). It wasn’t a complete performance but I have to give credit to the players because we controlled the game for most of the 90 minutes,” the Sabah Rhinos’ head coach said. He added: “We got ourselves to a three-nil lead and we were quite comfortable. But we got ourselves into some battles in the second half which we didn’t really need to, and there were some tackles that were flying around, quite dangerously really, and I think about football in Malaysia is we want to bring beautiful football here and certain players need to be looked after better rather than be allowed to be kicked or whatever.”

 Asked on his skipper El Hadji Diouf, who took some knocks during the game, he said: “He got a couple of knocks there and we don’t know how bad they are. Diouf picked up a very late challenge which I thought was not football. I don’t see it in anywhere in the world.” Mulvey also poured praised on his midfielder Faizol Nazlin Sayuti, saying that the latter put up a convincing display in the game.

 “Faizol just went through a mountain of works tonight. He was excellent in the midfield and he was cramping a little bit at the end and Leo (Leopold Alfonso Otong) cramped. But we are asking a lot from these players because we are in the start of the renewal of the season after the six weeks off and also at the beginning of Ramadhan. So it is very difficult for a lot of these players putting a lot of pressure on their bodies and we were asked to play at 10’o-clock and it’s just past midnight now as we finished and we got to get back up on Monday.

 “So it is not easy for any of the players in the League, we just got to hope that we can freshen up the team for Monday which I think we gonna need to do and play this team again,” said Mulvey. In the tie, flanker Alto Linus put Sabah Rhinos in front with a header after connecting from Diouf’s freekick in the fourth minute Aussie Joel Chianese put Sabah Rhinos 2-0 up with his 36th minute effort before defender Abdoulaye Faye headed home the third in the 41st minute off a corner kick taken by Diouf.

 Francis Forkey Doe pulled one goal back for Negeri Sembilan in the 86th minute, but it was a little too late for a fight-back as Sabah Rhinos walked home victors.
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