KOTA KINABALU: It was a job well done yet again for Sabah after notching a hard fought 2-1 victory over Armed Forces in a thrilling Premier League challenge at the Likas Stadium last night.
And Sabah coach and manager Gary Phillips is not overly concerned on how his side won the battle as long as the three points are in their bag.
“It was a hard game,” Gary admitted before adding “this is a big three points for the team.”
“We looked tired but we cannot blame them because they hardly had enough rest. We had a tough game last Friday while they (Armed Forces) had an easy one, so obviously the traveling that we have made and playing two tough games consecutively is taking its toll on the players.
“But we still looked solid in our defence, which makes me proud of the players,” said Gary.
“Now the team need a good rest, but at the same time they must keep their feet on the ground. We have two games coming up and we must stay focused.
“After all the hard work that we have done thus far, we must keep on winning. And those two matches will be as big as this one,” he said, referring to the upcoming clashes against Johor MP Muar and Shahzan Muda respectively.
The victory helped Sabah to pile the pressure on KL Felda United.
Felda won their battle against Melaka away to remain three points ahead of Sabah, who stay in second on 35 points.
Selangor PKNS beat Penang USM FC to pip Armed Forces from the third spot.
Mohd Farid Ideris and Bobby Gonzales scored two early goals for the home side before keeper Azizon Abdul Kadir gifted the visiting Armed Forces with a consolation later in the second half.
Congratulations to the Gary Phillips’ boys as despite being forced to defend their half in most part of the second half they did well to keep their opponents at bay with the exception of when Azizon allowed a long range effort by Saiful Mustafa to slip from his hands before it went into the net.
But the night certainly belonged to the home side as they showed their classy act inside the first 20 minutes of the game.
It was as good as a lightning start for Sabah, as they could have taken a second-minute lead when Zainizam Marjan’s free kick found Bobby Gonzales unmarked inside the penalty box.
Unfortunately for Bobby, he saw his powerful header saved by the Armed Forces’ custodian Mohd Nasril Nourdin.
But Sabah were not to be denied the lead a minute later when Julamri Muhammad won the ball at the back-line before feeding Alto Linus.
Alto then sent a superb cross that found Mohd Farid Ideris who eventually put the ball into the back of the Armed Forces’ net with a diving header.
Sabah were 2-0 up on seven minutes through a Bobby spot kick. Sabah were awarded the penalty kick after Armed Forces’ skipper Ahmad Tharmini Saiban, who is also a former Sabah defender, fouled Bobby inside the penalty box.
Bobby coolly converted the spot kick with a grounder.
In the 15th minute, Armed Forces’ Musabri Mat Nayan saw his powerful free kick tipped over the bar by the steady Azizon for a fruitless corner.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Danial Fadzly saw his attempt blocked by Azizon.
After the break, Sabah seemed to sit back and defend their two-goal lead and this allowed Armed Forces to launch missiles of attacks.
But the home side’s steady defence kept the visitors at bay.
And Armed Forces had a genuine penalty claim in the 63rd minute when Muhd Syafiq was brought down inside the penalty box, but match official Sukri Abdul Rahman waved play on.
On the other end, Sabah were twice denied a penalty kick when Zainizam Marjan was brought down inside the box on two occasions.