Source : New SabahTimes
ANIFAH … wants the team to continue with their fairy tale run and eventually lift the trophy that has been eluding them all this while.
25th August, 2007
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah may be the only Premier League outfit left to challenge for honours in the Malaysia Cup – but that will not make them bow too easily to their Super League opponents.
Even Sabah FA President Datuk Anifah Aman believes they have what it takes to humble their more fancied opponents, starting with a semi-final date with Perak on September 1. However, Anifah admits that this is not going to be an easy battle, and predicts that the finalists will be decided in the return leg on September 4. “Perak are not easy opponents. We have met them quite a number of times at the same stage in the past (the same competition). We know how difficult things could be, but we will take one game at a time and try to gain as much advantage in this first leg.
“So I hope the Tawau fans can give us a helping hand and help cheer the team to victory. “They were great during our quarter-final clash against Negeri Sembilan NAZA and I would like to say a big thank you. I hope they would give the same kind of support to the team on September 1.
To the Rhinos, Anifah said: “I’m not going to give them any additional pressure, but the only thing I want from all of them is to play to their best ability.” “I hope they can win the game for the fans in Tawau who have been marvellous. “We all know this will be a tough game because we are playing against a team from the Super League, who finished second this season. “But as long as we play to our true colours and play as a unit, there is always a chance for us to spring a surprise over a more fancied team like Perak. So my advice to the players is to play their best game.”
Furthermore, Anifah added that this is also an opportunity for the team to redeem themselves after failing to make the grade in the Premier League challenge by finishing the season in a disappointing sixth placing in the 11-team standings. Unlike in the Premier League where the Rhinos’ performances have been like a yo-yo, but in the Malaysia Cup, they have been doing great. Not many expected them to reach the semi-finals in the competition, having been drawn alongside the likes of newly crowned Super League champions Kedah, Perak, Pahang, Sarawak and Premier League champions Police in the group stage©.
But Sabah proved the critics wrong and booked themselves a place in the quarter-finals after finishing third behind Kedah and Perak. Kedah topped the group on 20 points, while Perak and Sabah were level on 18, but Perak stayed in second on a better goal average. Sabah made it to the last eight by being one of the best two third-placed teams in the four-group competition. In the quarter-finals, they ousted Negeri Sembilan NAZA.
Despite trailing after losing the first leg encounter 1-0, Sabah bounced back by chalking up a 3-1 victory to eventually march into the last four on a 3-2 aggregate victory.
The semi-final date with Perak will be the Rhinos’ final home game at the newly completed RM69 million Tawau Sports Complex, instead of their usual hunting ground – the Likas Stadium.
While they may be seen as the underdogs against the more fancied Super League outfit, but based on paper, this is a match that could go either way, at least if we are to look at their previous meetings during the group stage.
For the record – in the group stage – the Rhinos hold the upper hand over their opponents – winning 1-0 at home, before being held to a one-all draw in the return leg tie.
But it has always been a different scenario when you are in the semi-finals. Fortunately, being in the last four is not uncharted territory for Sabah, as this will be their fourth semi-final appearance in six years. The last time they made it into the semi-finals was in 2004, while in 2002 and 2003, they were the losing finalists. In 2005 and 2006, Sabah failed to make it past the group stage.
This time around, Anifah wants the team to continue with their fairy tale run and eventually lift the trophy that has been eluding them all this while.