Source : New SabahTimes
SALVESTER SINDEH … turns hero for his side by netting the winner one minute from regulation time.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s season is still pretty much alive and kicking!
Despite the fact that they only hold a mathematical chance of making it to top flight football next season, but at least the Rhinos are still in the race for honours in the elusive Malaysia Cup challenge.
On Saturday, the Rhinos emerged as one of the eight quarter-finalists for the oldest and most prestigious Malaysia Cup after the completion of the three-group preliminary round stages.
The Rhinos qualified for the knockout stage by virtue of being among the two best third placed teams along with Terengganu from Group B.
Sabah finished behind Kedah and Perak in Group C, while Selangor and Perlis made it through the Group A and NS NAZA topped the Group B while Melaka finished in second followed by Terengganu.
While not having the best of campaigns in the Premier League, Sabah’s Malaysia Cup challenge has been quite convincing and they are also still in the FA Cup competition, although thing looks a lot tougher for them in the competition.
They need to get the better of last year’s finalists Perlis in order to advance through into the semi-finals.
The first leg of the FA Cup ended in a two-all draw. Despite the fact that Sabah had taken a two-goal lead, Perlis fought back and scored two goals inside the last five minutes or so.
Although they only needed a draw against Police in their final game, but the Rhinos have proven that their entry into the last eight was no fluke.
Instead their 4-3 victory over the Premier League runaway leaders is just an indication that they are genuine contenders for the Malaysia Cup crown.
But before that, they have to clear their first hurdle where NS NAZA await them in the quarters.
The quarter-finals fixtures have been slated for August.
“We were aware that a draw would have been enough, but we wanted to underline our determination by getting a victory.
“We achieved that and we are in the quarter-finals, and obviously we are happy with the result.
“The fact that we are the only non Super League team in the last eight shows that we do belong to the elite group,” Rahman Zakaria said.
However, it was quite a night for the Rhinos as the scoreline suggests.
Despite taking a two-goal lead courtesy of Charles Obi’s 36th minute strike and Chow Chee Weng’s 68th minute effort, the Rhinos allowed Police to battle back and score three goals to eventually take the lead.
However, Obi was on target again, but this time he netted his second on the night from the spot to put Sabah on level terms, before Salvester Sindeh turned hero for his side by netting the winner one minute from regulation time.
But while happy with the result, Rahman is not at all impressed with the team’s overall performance.
“It was supposed to be an easy night after we took a two-goal lead. But we took things easy after taking the lead which allowed Police to fight back. We must try to stop things like this from happening, because on some days we might be punished. We will look into it and try to improve in future matches.
“Hopefully we will be able to lift our game in the next match,” he added, referring to the second leg FA Cup quarterfinal tie against Perlis in Kangar on May 29.
Meanwhile, Rahman sang his praises of the youthful Rhinos’ squad for their showing thus far in the Malaysian League, especially in the Malaysia Cup and FA Cup.
While the Rhinos face a mammoth task in securing promotion to the Super League, Rahman said: “Let us not forget that no one gave Sabah much hope at the start of the season following our poor campaign since 2005. But we proved them wrong with an improved performance and results this year under the guidance of head coach Drago Mamic, apart from the players’ determination.”