KOTA KINABALU: Sabah now hold a slight advantage of making it into the next round in the FA Cup competition after holding Kuala Lumpur to a one-all draw in the first leg of the first round encounter at the Kuala Lumpur Football Association Stadium in Cheras on Saturday.
The homeground advantage and the away goal rule indeed make them the favourites to march on. The second leg will take place at the Likas Stadium on February 3 (tonight). Team manager Rahman Zakaria is also optimistic that his charges can claim the second round ticket on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Sabah, the 1995 FA Cup winners, were only seconds away from victory before Azwan Malek scored the equaliser for Kuala Lumpur deep inside injury time.
Flanker Azrul Ejati Damsah broke the deadlock in the first minute of the second half after picking up a pass from striker Zainizam Marjan.
He dribbled past a defender before finding the back of the net with a cool strike.
Rahman was not too pleased with Kuala Lumpur’s late equaliser by claiming it had exceeded the added time.
He went on to say that the referee should have blown the final whistle when the added time was up.
He was also unhappy with the way the referee handled the match, especially after seeing four of his players yellow carded while not even one Kuala Lumpur was booked.
“The action from the referee affected the momentum of our players.
“Although I am a bit disappointed for not being able to win despite the fact that we were so close to victory, but then again we scored and have the away goal advantage.
“The way I see it we have the chance to progress … the opportunity is there for us in the next game,” said Rahman.
In the game, Sabah also lost first-choice custodian Irwan Jamil who suffered a groin injury.
The youngster was replaced by Harold John at the start of the second half.
But overall, Rahman said: “The players played alright. We need to improve on our combination and understanding in midfield though.”
“Kuala Lumpur dominated the area but the players worked hard … we will be ready for the return leg,” he added
Meanwhile, four teams are almost certain of making it to the second round with Sarawak leading the pack after thrashing the Armed Forces 6-1, Kelantan edged Johor 4-0, Perlis blanked Johor MBJB 4-0, while Perak beat SDM Kepala Batas 4-1.
The other first leg results saw UPB MyTeam win 2-1 against Proton FC, Felda United beat Police 2-1, T-Team won 1-0 against Shahzan Muda, Penang won 1-0 over Johor FC, Negeri Sembilan and Melaka drew 0-0 and Pahang held Selangor PKNS 1-1.
Four other teams Kedah, Selangor, Terengganu and Kuala Muda Naza received a first round bye.