KOTA KINABALU: Georgian striker KokHrei Dze Irakli made his debut by storm as he scored twice to help Sabah march into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup competition.
The Rhinos claimed their ticket after registering a 3-1 second leg victory to advance through on a 4-3 aggregate. KokHrei was certainly the surprise inclusion in the Rhinos’ first team after replacing Brazilian striker Andre Scotti Ossemer as the Rhinos’ third foreigner in the team. He was only cleared to play hours before kick off upon receiving his International Transfer Certificate.
Andre, who is the current top scorer with eight goals in all competitions, was forced to watch the game from the fans’ stands. But the Sabah FA’s brave move paid off as the 28-year-old KokHrei made an early impression by scoring the opener just after two minutes of play, before netting his second with a spectacular goal from an indirect free kick from just outside the penalty box.
Salvester Sindeh headed Sabah’s second, while Sabah-born ex-junior Rhino and Police skipper Sanjos Sundawat scored the sole goal for the visitors. But despite KokHrei’s two-goal heroic feat, Englishman Jamie Phoenix was the “star” for the Rhinos as he was surely the most outstanding among them all. The Rhinos’ head coach Drago Mamic seemed to notice this, and refused to substitute him despite the fact that Jamie seemed to be carrying an injury after receiving several knocks.
Instead, it was KokHrei who was replaced as he had to make way for Chow Chee Wing in the 70th minute. Overall, it was quite a performance from the State squad.
They took an early lead when KokHrei scored from close range. It started from Jamie who burst from the centre of the field before feeding the unmarked Julamri at the left side. The nippy flanker centered the ball for KokHrei, who coolly slotted home the opener from close range. Then it was Salvester’s turn to put his name on the score sheet when he headed a Mohd Nafuzi Zain cross into an empty net after 13 minutes of play. The half ended with Sabah taking a 2-0 lead.
But three minutes after the break, Police were back on level terms (on aggregate) when out of the blue Sanjos curled the ball past the hapless Sabah custodian who was caught off position.
From then on, the match gained momentum with Police holding the upper hand until in the 68th minute when Police substitute goalkeeper Abdul Rahman Ismail was penalised for holding the ball over six seconds.
The Rhinos were awarded an indirect free kick. Eddy and KokHrei were there to execute the free kick with KokHrei having the first touch before Eddy made a back pass for KokHrei to unleash a beautiful curling shot that defeated the hapless Abdul Rahman.
Trailing by two goals, Police put more pressure on the home side, but none of their attempts found the target. Instead, it was Sabah who could have sealed the victory when in the 88th minute, Jamie was presented with a golden opportunity where he only had the keeper to beat. But unfortunately the Englishman’s attempt was blocked by the keeper.