KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos are now in dire straits of a revival as their back to back defeats to Harimau Muda have added more salt to their wounds.
And one can hardly predict when the Rhinos would end their rot.
What we have seen thus far is the same old song as the Rhinos played the “yo-yo” game – the game we have seen from them for the last few seasons – winning one game and losing the next few games.
This game is likely to continue at least for this season.
At the moment, everything is against the Rhinos and one wonders if they have the guts, spirit and determination to overcome whatever circumstances there are ahead of them.
The only consolation for the Rhinos is at the moment they remain in 10th position in the 13-team standings on 10 points from 13 games, but risk dropping further as Armed Forces, who defeated Melaka 3-1 in another Premier League clash on Monday, are only one point behind.
But it is a case of too good to be true for the Harimau Muda, as their season thus far has proven to be blossomed.
They maintain their top spot on 37 points while Johor, who did not see action on Monday, remain in second on 31.
They won 12 games and drew once and are the only side to have remained unbeaten in the League.
The side is now being coached by former Rhino Ong Kim Swee, who took over from K. Rajagopal, who has been promoted to take charge of the senior team.
Against Harimau Muda, the Rhinos got to admit the fact that they bowed out to their much fitter opponents, who pushed them to the limit right until the end.
The exhausted Rhinos just could not stay focused, resulting in Abdul Shukur Jusoh netting the winner in the dying seconds of the game.
Despite the defeat and the predicament they are in, team manager Rahman Zakaria wants the players to continue thinking positively in their remaining games.
“We must not lose hope but must continue fighting in order to make a decent finish in the League.
“When you look at the game against Harimau Muda, we did not play that badly. We were indeed pretty much in the game and could have even won it with a little bit of luck.
“It was a 50-50 affair, but unfortunately we conceded a goal in the very last minute,” a dejected Rahman said.
“Although it is almost impossible for us to make a top three finish, but I think it is still not too late for us to conclude our season not too far away from the top three.
“There are another 11 games to play and I believe if we can collect as many points from these games, we will be able to end our season among the top half (in the standings).
“That is why I want the players to be positive and confident in tackling the remaining matches to ensure we are not the bottom team.”
In their first encounter against Harimau Muda, the Rhinos lost 2-0 in an away battle before bowing to Abdul Shukur’s solitary strike in their second encounter.
Rahman also praised several of the Rhinos who he said played well on the night.
Among them are goalkeeper Harold John and Zainizam Marjan.
Zainizam went close with a glancing header following a cross from Billyton Vun Ket Ming in the 24th minute, with Harimau Muda’s goalkeeper Muhd Zamir Selamat already beaten.
Striker Zaykiel Leong also had a header cleared off the line having beaten the shaky Muhd Zamir to the ball in the 57th minute.
Harold made at least three crucial saves that gave Sabah a fighting chance for a point until the injury-time winner by Abdul Shukur.
Harold was called into action in the ninth minute when he made a fingertip save from Md Fandi Otman’s free-kick before getting the better of Ahmad Aminuddin in a one-on-one situation in the 55th minute.
Harold also made an acrobatic save to deny Gary Steven in the 83rd minute only for Abdul Shukur to net the winner with a curling effort with the last kick of the game.
Other results saw Sarawak lose 1-2 to Proton FC, Terengganu T-Team won 4-0 against Felda United FC KL, PKNS Selangor drew 1-1 with Shahzan Muda Pahang and Kuala Lumpur won 2-0 against SDM Kepala Batas Pulau Pinang.
Sabah will next face basement team SDM Kepala Batas at Batu Kawan Stadium on May 22.
The Premier League will take around a month off after that and will only resume on June 19.