Source : New SabahTimes
KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos have been told to maintain their winning momentum as they kept alive their promotion quest with a crucial 3-1 victory over Premier League leaders UPB-MyTEAM on Friday.
The victory comes as a great relief for the Drago Mamic boys as anything less than maximum points could have shattered their dreams.
It is also good to see that the fighting Rhinos have now moved out from the relegation zone as the three points earned from the clash helped them climb three rungs up from 10th placing to seventh in the 11-team standings on 10 points.
Prior to the clash, the Rhinos’ ability as a genuine contender for promotion was in serious doubt, no thanks to their inability to win in their Premier League challenge.
In fact it was their first home win in the league after five attempts. Their previous four outings ended in three draws and one defeat.
Sabah chalked up their first win (in the league) by edging Kuala Muda Naza 2-1 in an away battle. Their remaining two away fixtures ended in a draw and a defeat.
But what is more promising in the victory (over UPB-MyTEAM) was the partnership of Nigerian striker Charles Obi and his countryman Prince Ativie Guy.
In fact it was Prince Ativie’s second game for the team since replacing Poland striker Arkadiusz Jerzy Zarlzynski. He scored his first goal for the Rhinos (in the 4-3 win over Johor FC in the FA Cup) and made two assists.
And it was from his assist that Obi netted the Rhinos’ second against UPB-MyTEAM before sending a superb cross for Obi to head home the third goal.
Chow Chee Wing drew first blood for the Rhinos with a well-taken free kick in the first half injury time before Obi extended the lead five minutes after the break.
But UPB-MyTEAM were back in the game when Prince Eboagwu Etuwe scored an own goal in the 54th minute. But three minutes from time, Obi headed in a Prince Ativie cross to seal the Rhinos’ well-deserved victory.
Although it was team effort that won the game for the team on Friday, but both Obi and Prince Ativie will certainly be an asset for the team if they can improve their partnership in matches to come.
Rahman Zakaria insists that the team will only get better.
“They are all fighters in the team. All of them want to prove that they are among the contenders, not only in the Malaysia Cup or the FA Cup, but also in the league.
“They want to prove that they are up for the challenge, and the victory over UPB-MyTEAM was just one example about their burning desire to do well in the M-League,” the Rhinos’ team manager said.
“As I have said all along, we have a good team here. Our only problem was that we just could not win a league game since our victory over Kuala Muda Naza in January.
“So I hope this will be our springboard to achieve greater results in our coming matches,” Rahman said.
“It is important for the team to maintain their winning momentum or rhythm. If we can do that, I think we have nothing to fear,” Rahman said.
“In fact we are very proud of the players, especially the determination and spirit they have shown in our last two games.
The Rhinos, who have a game in hand, are just three points behind third placed Selangor PKNS (13 points) while UPB still top the league on 20 points followed by Police on 17.
“I hope the players will not be carried away with their new found confidence but maintain their focus in every match,” said Rahman.
Rahman also hoped that the victory over UPB would lure more fans in their upcoming home matches.
“To have a big crowd cheering the players will be of great help and if not crucial for the team to vie for victories.
“On behalf of the team I would like to express a big thank you to the fans, who have been supporting us all this while and hopefully we will see more turn up in the near future,” added Rahman.
Sabah’s next match will be against Shahzan Muda in a TM Premier League tie at the Darul Makmur Stadium, Kuantan on April 3, before playing their first second round match against Police at the Likas Stadium on April 6.