source: the Star
PETALING JAYA: Sabah are on cloud nine over getting back to play in the Super League after a lapse of five years.
The Rhinos had gone on a roller-coaster ride this season in the Premier League but ended up pipping PKNS to a second-place finish in the 12-team competition.
Sabah beat Pos Malaysia 1-0 in their final fixture to take their tally to 48 points while PKSN crashed to a 1-2 defeat by a depleted Harimau Muda (national Under-19) side. Both teams went into the final fixtures tied on 45 points with PKNS having a vastly superior goal difference.
Sabah thus joined Felda United as the promoted sides to the top flight next season. Felda had taken an unassailable lead at the top of the table going into their match against Armed Forces and they settled for a goalless draw to finish their campaign on 50 points.
Sabah chief coach Gary Phillip said that they were glad Harimau Muda did them a favour by beating PKNS while his men did just enough to pull through.
“I guess the football god favoured Sabah,” said the Australian.
In fact, Sabah would not have been in such an agonising situation. They were even in the driver’s seat at one stage to clinch the Premier League title but lost ground with a draw against Muar Municipal Council (1-1) and defeat by lowly USM FC of Penang (0-1),
“We let our guard down after the six-week break for the World Cup Finals but I am glad the boys showed character to bounce back and pick up the runners-up spot,” said Phillip, who will now prepare the team for the 16-team Malaysia Cup competition in September.
“We have to be realistic of our chances in the Malaysia Cup, especially when we will be in the company of the likes of Selangor, Kelantan and the other big guns. We have spoken to a couple of players to get them on loan to strengthen the team for the competition.”
Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee sympathised with PKNS and felt that they were too tense in their approach to win the game.
“Our boys did well even with an under-strength side. I am happy for Sabah as I have played for them before,” said Kim Swee, who featured for the Rhinos between 1994 and 1998.
PKNS had hoped to make a name for themselves in the mainstream of Malaysian football after having been reduced to a feeder role to their state side, Selangor, and back-up squads in the second-tier of the M-League since 1998.
But their dreams have been dashed again. The consolation for finishing third was qualification for the Malaysia Cup competition as one of the top four teams in the Premier League. Felda, Sabah, PKNS and Armed Forces will join the top 12 teams in the Super League for the competition.