KOTA KINABALU: It was one of those nights for Sabah, as despite putting up what is seen as their best ever performance thus far this season, they had to bow out to Harimau Muda in a five-goal thriller at the Likas Stadium last night.
They went down 2-3 to the young national Under-19 squad despite taking an early lead.
Things were not going Sabah’s way, but the most frustrating part was their failure to convert sure-goal opportunities!
And if not for human error, Sabah could have won the battle rather easily.
At the backline, mistakes were too glaring for all to see while in the attack, they just could not complete the simplest of tasks. Maybe that’s why we call it football.
Sabah started the game aggressively and were already in the lead in the fourth minute when Henry Parsi scored a rare goal for his side by pushing the ball with his body into the net off a corner taken by Mohd Radzi Hussin.
However, their joy was short-lived as Harimau Muda put things on level terms after capitalising on a defensive error by the home team that saw Wan Zack Haikal unleash a low drive defeating the hapless Harold John to eventually see the scoreline at 1-1.
In the 22nd minute, Bobby Gonzales had his first attempt at Harimau Muda’s goal that went wide.
When the game approached the half-hour mark, Sabah were presented with a golden opportunity to restore their lead.
It started when Shahrul Azhar Ture intercepted a ball from a Harimau Muda player before sending Bobby to go one on one with the Harimau Muda keeper Mohd Izham Tarmizi.
Unfortunately for the former national Under-23 striker, he failed to beat his young opponent as his shot was blocked by the steady custodian.
At the other end, Harimau Muda’s Gary Steven A/L Robbat was given space by the Sabah defenders, but fortunately for the home side, his attempt went wide.
Soon later, Wan Zack saw his attempt from the left side of the penalty box blocked by Harold.
On the stroke of half time, Wan Zack was not to be denied a second when he managed to beat the off side trap, yet another defensive error at the Sabah backline, before unleashing a powerful grounder that Harold could not do much about.
Sabah Head Coach Gary Phillips made double substations at the start of the second half, bringing in Alto Linus and Razlan Otto for Radzi and Bobby respectively.
It seemed to work its wonder as Sabah looked to be a different side full of energy.
Barely two minutes into the second half Sabah managed to create half chances when Razlan fed Alto at the left side before the Keningau lad centred the ball for Mohd Farid Ideris. But a Harimau Muda defender was quick enough to clear the ball before Mohd Farid could connect it into the back of the net.
Sabah kept on with the attacking play and their efforts finally got the reward when Alto put them on level terms in the 56th minute.
It started from Mohd Farid, who was challenged by three Harimau Muda players before cleverly passing the ball for Alto to go solo before unleashing a shot that went straight into the back of the net.
Two minutes later, Sabah could have been in front but were denied by poor finishing.
Razlan sent a superb cross for Shahrul, who only had the keeper to beat, but unfortunately, his shot was blocked by the keeper.
From then on, Sabah looked like they were going to win the game until Harimau Muda scored their third – no thanks to another defensive error by the home side.
Mohd Irfan Fazail scored the winner from close range in the 70th minute.
After the goal, Sabah seemed to run out of steam despite giving and trying the best they could to make a fightback.
That was Sabah’s second consecutive defeat after three games. In their last game, they lost to Selangor PKNS 2-0 in an away battle. Thus far they merely managed to gain one point from the scoreless draw against KL Felda United FC.