KOTA KINABALU: Wathiq Naji Jasim claimed it was “kickboxing” and not a football match as he watched his side suffer their first defeat of the season, losing 3-0 to Melaka in a Premier League clash at the Hang Jebat Stadium on Monday.
The Rhinos’ head coach said he had never seen anything like that in his coaching career spanning more than 40 years.
The former Iraqi national head coach said one could see kicking everywhere on the field with Sabah players being victimised.
“It’s normal to see a rough game in a football match, but in my life I have never seen anything like this. They were kicking our players even when we were without the ball,” said Wathiq.
While not willing to make a public comment on the match officials, Wathiq, in his first season taking charge of the Rhinos, added: “We can accept rough play but not kicking players without the ball.”
Wathiq revealed, three of his key players got injured in the game – Julamri Muhammad, Rezuan Khan Aman and skipper Zainizam Marjan.
Defender Mohd Fariss Azlan Mat Isa also saw red in the game that could be a crucial blow for the squad ahead of their home clash against T-Team of Terengganu next Monday.
On the defeat, Wathiq rather sees the positive side of it saying: “It is good for us it happened now because it will make the team realise that we need to be more serious and work harder in training.”
“As long as we stick together and rectify what needs to be done, we will surely recover from this setback and hopefully against T-Team,” he added.
Wathiq said they had a poor first half and looked nervous. “We were a bit lost in the first half but after the break we had 100 per cent domination of the game. We were the ones who did the attacking and the only time they attacked us, they scored.”
Sabah were trailing 2-0 at half time to goals from Mohd Fauzi Kassim (3rd minute) and Hanafiah Abu Bakar (36th minute) before Rahim Bakar struck the third five minutes from regulation time.
The defeat saw Sabah drop three rungs down from fourth to seventh in the 14-team standings on nine points – nine points behind surprise league leaders Harimau Muda (the National Under-19).