KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s first year in the Super League is like ‘living hell’ after five long years in the Premier League. Blundering strikers, poor finishing is the order of the day for them. Their toothless attack is a key factor that has caused the team to struggle. But this is not something new as it has been happening from Day 1 of the league!
On Sunday, Sabah were singing the same old song … creating chance after chance, but only managing to convert one. Their opponent, T-Team, created far less chances, but scored three.
In fact, the least Sabah could have done was to settle for a draw … if they knew how to finish off the many chances they created. It even could have been over after the opening 45 minutes if they did it.
Although, T-Team drew first blood, Sabah in the other hand created more chances to end the half in their favour. Instead, it ended one-all where it could have been 3-1 or 2-1 at the very least.
In the first half, T-Team created two or three long range efforts plus the opener which came from a free kick whilst Sabah had more than five, with at least three of them should have been behind the net. They also had one genuine penalty claim denied.
Now with only five matches left to play in the season, they find themselves languishing second from the bottom, which mean they will be doomed to the Premier League unless they can create some sort of miracle in their remaining games.
By the look of things the Premier League looks more likely for the out-of-sort team.
A distraught Sabah head coach Justin Ganai said: “The confidence is low in the team after the defeat, and we must pick ourselves quickly and be ready for the next game.”
Injury and suspensions to key players are not helping Justin at all. Against T-Team, he was forced to name five players who are registered with the Reserve League.
Of the five, Dendy Lowa made his maiden debut in the Super League after starting alongside Rosdin Wasli, Alto Linus and Hariri Mohd Safii in the backline.
Zackkalani is another who tasted his first Super League action, coming in for Radzi Mohd Hussin in the last quarter of the game.
Md Rozaimi Abd Rahman saw action for the seniors replacing Shahrul Azhar Ture at the hour mark.
Striker Leopold Alfonso Otong is another Under-21 player who featured in the first team yesterday.
Among the five, only Sabri Sahar, who has been a regular under former coach Gary Phillips’ regime, failed to take the field.
The likes of captain Md Reithuddin Ag Emran, Mafry Balang, Julamri Muhammad and last year’s top scorer Mohd Farid Ideris, were all forced to watch from the bench due to either suspensions or injury.
Another two key players Sivakumar and Mohd Safuan Ibrahim are on long term injury, and all this has left Justin with limited resources.
“We were without several key players because of injury and suspensions, but I know the players that I played have tried their best.”
“The outcome could have been a draw or even a victory had we converted the chances that we created especially in the first half.
“It was a game of two halves. It happened against Harimau Muda (Sabah lost 2-0) and last the same thing happened.
“We were the better side in the first half, but not after the break. Maybe it has something to do with the players’ fitness.
“But at this stage, fitness should not be an issue, because there is nothing much you can do about it. It should have been done in the pre-season and just need to maintain it.
“The tight fixtures too are not helping because we are playing Sunday, Wednesday and then Sunday.
“The players need a break too, more over we only have a small squad and rotation is out of the question.
And Justin could lose more players ahead of their tie against KL Felda United (Wednesday at Likas Stadium).
“Both Reithuddin and Mafry are still not available for our next game as they will still be serving the last of their two-match suspension.
“As for the injured players, I hope they will recover in time to give the team experience and added strength,” said Justin.
The defeat left 13th placed Sabah on 19 points, just three behind safe zone currently occupied by Kuala Lumpur and Pahang.