Source : New Sabahtimes
6th September, 2007
KOTA KINABALU: Though beaten, Sabah walked off the pitch from the country’s most prestigious competition, the Malaysia Cup, with pride intact.
The Rhinos team manager, Rahman Zakaria said he was proud with the way his charges fought their way into the last four of the tournament before bowing out to Perak in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Tawau, Sabah were outdone by Mohd Khalid Jamlus’ double strike, to go down fighting 1-2 in the second leg in Ipoh.
Young flanker Zulamri Muhammad replied for Sabah but it was not enough as the Rhinos went out 2-3 on aggregate.
“I’m proud with the players. They really played their hearts out. They have also shown high commitment and fighting spirit and they certainly walked out of the country’s oldest competition with their heads held high,” said Rahman.
“We are sad for not being able to play in the final. I think it is just not our luck but that’s football.
“When we looked at the game, it was a 50-50 affair thing. The players did not give in easily to Perak who were supported by around 30,000 fans.
“I’m proud of them as it showed that we can fight with the elite teams of Malaysian football… we lost but with our pride still intact,” Rahman added while thanking the 200-odd Sabah fans at the Perak Stadium.
Rahman also questioned Perak’s second goal, alleging that it was an offside. He however refused to be drawn into details, admitting that this happens in football.
The defeat left the Rhinos with another barren season, but this is not the end of the world, says Rahman.
He pointed out that the rapid improvement of the team, especially among the youngsters, under head coach Drago Mamic will make Sabah a better team in the near future.
“For a team that has been written off by many prior to the start of the current season, I don’t think we did too badly judging from our performance in the three competitions.
“All these shows that the squad is matured and with Mamic’s vast experience, I’m sure positive things will happen in the very near future,” said Rahman.
Rahman also praised Mamic for his handling of the youngsters whom the latter had hinted will be pivotal in leading the team next season.
He said young players such as goalkeeper Irwan Jamil, Zulamri, Azrul Ejati Damsah, Hardy Charles and Radzi Hussin to name a few, proved that they can be counted on for the battles ahead.
“Some of the youngsters have broken into the first team regularly under Mamic and that contributed to their rapid progress.
Against Perak, the team played well including the youngsters, but Irwan certainly was one of the most outstanding of the bunch by producing countless saves.
“With the youngsters’ hunger for success in addition to the experience from the senior players, the Rhinos have a lot of potential. I think we are pretty much a decent team, and I believe that we will able to give a better show next season as most of youngsters will be more matured,” Rahman said.
“So now it is important for the team to continue the good work and to strive further to improve their game in order to become the best,” added Rahman.
For the record, Sabah was the only non-Super League side to reach the quarter-finals and then the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup which is the only title that still eludes them.
Kedah, who defeated Terengganu 2-0 on aggregate, will take on Perak in the final.
Sabah returned home yesterday, and they will break camp for between 10-14 days before beginning preparations for the new season that is expected to kick off on November 4.