KOTA KINABALU: It was a night full of drama and controversy at the Likas Stadium!

POOR HANDLING OF THE GAME … Abu Bakar Noor (right) looks on as his unidentified assistant tries to separate David (left) and Mohd Shahfiz during the incident.

And it looks like the Rhinos are heading towards the exit in the Malaysia Cup challenge. This is thanks to its young custodian, Mohd Salawi Jasad, who threw away with what could have been a certain victory for the home side.

The fault also lies on the referee, Abu Bakar Mohd Noor, whose failure to handle the game almost triggered a free-for-all between both sides.

It was fortunate that only one or two players were involved in the match which ended in Kuala Lumpur’s favour who walked away with a 2-1 victory–no thank you to a gifted goal by Mohd Salawi.

While the game was not at its highest level, one cannot deny that the standard of refereeing was certainly at its lowest ebb as Abu Bakar’s poor decisions just made the whole affair even worst.

Both sides ended their night with a man less as Sabah’s Salvester Sindeh and Kuala Lumpur goalkeeper Mohd Shahfiz Amri Zaini were deservedly given the marching orders in the 75th minute after being involved in a commotion.

But it was after the ref who flashed the red card on Salvester which begun the unwanted incident.

It came about as Salvester was seen walking off the field and a Kuala Lumpur player, Hasnol Hamzah, was seen to provoke the Rhinos’ striker and that was when the fight started. Salvester was seen kicking and was trying to punch the player (Hasnol) who later ran to towards the bench for his safety.

The whole incident which lasted for a full 10 minutes, started with Sabah’s Nigerian striker David Njoku who was allegedly slapped by a Kuala Lumpur player and that player went unpunished.

As for Mohd Shahfiz, he was punished for pushing Salvester from behind and was later involved in a commotion before running towards the bench.

The controversy did not end there as a blunder by Abu Bakar allowed Kuala Lumpur to play with 11-men despite having their keeper sent off. It was only after about 10 minutes that the referee realised his mistake after being alerted by a fourth official Abdul Harun Osman!

But by then it was already too late, as Kuala Lumpur only played with 10 men in the dying seconds of the game.

It was certainly not a night to remember for Mohd Salawi, who had a good game in the Rhinos 1-0 victory over Penang in their last game.

What was seen as a time-wasting tactic by the youngster saw him gifted Kuala Lumpur with an equaliser in the 58th minute when Yong Kuong Yong stole the ball from his (Salawi) feet before slotting home into an empty net.

The incident saw Salawi, who was shocked by the blunder, was seen to feign injury and was subsequently being replaced Irwan Jamil.

A minute earlier, Zainizam had put the Rhinos in the lead with a header of a cross by Salvester. Yong was on target again in the 73rd minute after finishing off his second goal from close range.

In fact the home side could have sealed the match in the first half but was denied by poor finishing with Bobby Gonzales who was one of the culprits, by missing two sitters. The first being in the 18th minute when he poked the ball from close range that went wide. Then in the 27th minute, he squandered another opportunity when he failed to finish off a Mohd Radzi Hussin cross after his attempt from the six yard box went above the bar.

Dragic Dalibor, who was certainly the man of the match for the Rhinos, saw his header go inches above the bar while Salvester Sindeh’s effort also went wide.

David also saw his shot from just outside the box went inches above the cross bar.

Wong Sai Kong, Zainizam Marjan, and David as well as Dragic all shots at the Kuala Lumpur goalmouth, but the much needed equaliser never did materialise as their attempt either went wide or was saved by Mohd Shahfiz’s replacement Saiful Amar.

On the night the Salawi blunder was just unacceptable for many, as it was all Sabah affair before the unfortunate incident.

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