Source : New SabahTimes
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s hopes of clinching one of the two promotion slots to the Super League next season are slowly fading away after squandering yet another opportunity of closing the gap with the top teams on Friday.
The two drawn matches in their last two outings, including Friday’s draw against Kelantan at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Baru, has now left them with nothing but a miracle to make it into the top flight of Malaysian football.
A victory over Kelantan could have helped them close the gap on second-placed UPB-MyTEAM, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Kuala Lumpur in another Premier League tie at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras.
Instead, the Rhinos failed in their mission in Kota Baru as they merely returned home with one point … meaning it remain as status quo as far as the points’ gap between them and UPB-MyTEAM, who are occupying the last promotion slot.
Despite the fact that their promotion hopes are no longer in their own hands, Rahman Zakaria is not giving up hope just yet, insisting that they will solider on.
“We are not giving any promises, but we will certainly give our utmost best in our quest for promotion,” the Rhinos’ team manager said.
“We are still in the race, but with a tricky path ahead of us,” he admitted. “We need to win our remaining games and hope results elsewhere will favour us,” added Rahman.
Police, who chalked up their 11th win of the season after edging Armed Forces 3-1 at the MPS Stadium in Selayang, are comfortably leading the standings on 34 points, and look certain to claim one of the promotion slots, especially with them holding a two-game advantage over UPB-MyTEAM and one-game advantage over Sabah.
UPB-MyTEAM are second on 32 followed by Sabah on 25 points.
“Now it seems that we will be fighting for the one slot with UPB-MyTEAM because Police are quite far ahead of us.
“As UPB-MyTEAM will not be playing this coming Tuesday, it is important that we take our chances against KL Plus FC away,” Rahman said.
“A victory will certainly motivate the players to take the challenge to try and stay unbeaten in our remaining fixtures. Hopefully this will put UPB-MyTEAM under pressure to lose points along the way,” said Rahman, while expressing his confidence in head coach Drago Mamic’s vast experience.
Commenting on the Kelantan clash, Rahman said that it was a game that they could have won with better or rather fairer refereeing.
He said that there were several questionable decisions against Sabah.
In the game, Kelantan took the lead in the 54th minute through Luciano Ignacio Olier, but Prince Ativie Guy scored the equaliser for Sabah five minutes from time.
But prior to Prince Ativie’s equaliser, Sabah had a good penalty appeal turned down by the referee after Azrul Ejati Damsah was brought down inside the Kelantan penalty box.
“The linesman had flagged for a foul on Azrul,” said Rahman. “But instead of pointing to the spot, the referee booked him for no reason.
“It was a clear penalty, but we could do nothing as it was the referee who had the final say,” said Rahman, adding that there were so many decisions against Sabah that eventually affected the rhythm of their game.
Rahman also said that Sabah will be based in Peninsula Malaysia until the second leg of the FAM quarter-final tie against Perlis on May 29.
However, prior to the win or bust clash, Sabah will have a date against KL Plus FC in a Premier League tie on May 22 before taking on Police four days later in their final Group C Malaysia Cup challenge at the MPS Stadium where they need a draw to cruise into the quarter-finals.