source: Daily Express
Kota Kinabalu: It was a bitter defeat for Sabah at the hands of T-Team in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup quarterfinal stage at the Likas Stadium on Monday night. One positive aspect to come out from the disappointing loss was that Sabah still has a chance to turn the table on the Terengganu side.
The team did not play well on the night. Lapse of concentration resulted in two goals conceded by the team and although they managed to score one, the defeat has made Sabah’s task of progressing to the semi-final stage that much difficult this Friday.
Despite not firing on all cylinders, Sabah had the opportunity to win the match against their more fancied opponent.
If only K Thanaraj had converted in the 6th minute when fed by a neat pass from Farid Ideris in the box and several missed chances after that, then the story could have been different for the home team.
Instead it was Indra Putra Mahayudin who broke the deadlock with a clinical finish in the 34th minute thanks to some generous Sabah players.
No doubt, Zuraindey Jumai lost possession in the midfield which resulted in the goal, but others must also shoulder the blame as when the ball fell to Indra, there was nobody from the home team who reacted fast enough to close down on the player thus allowing him to burst through from the middle to slot home the opener.
Zuraindey was not the only one who was off colour on the night, others were also not really themselves and the midfield was unable to operate as efficient as coach Justin Ganai would have hoped for.
Zainizam Matjan as usual worked his socks off trying his up most best to win the match with his determined non-stop running and pulling the strings for fellow teammates.
Sabah’s goal was the result of the veteran’s effort. His determination to hang on to the ball at the start of the second half in the penalty box paid off handsomely. His cross from the by line was met by Alto Linus with his cheeky back heel which caught the T-Team goalkeeper by surprise.
The substitution by Justin to replace Farid Ideris and Alto Linus with Razlan Oto and Sharul Azhar Ture respectively had created more bite to the Sabah attacks after the interval.
Sharul with his menacing run from the right was quite a handful for the visitors and the strong physical presence of Razlan also caused a few problems for the visitors’ defence. But again failure to turn chances into goals denied Sabah a win in the match.
The second goal conceded by Sabah was a result of another case of casual defending by Sabah players.
Indra was a relatively quiet figure in the second half until the goal in the 84th minute.
He was allowed to run freely into the penalty box unchecked to head in the ball from close range which keeper Syed Adney Syed Hussein failed to hold and allowed him to poke home the rebound.
Up until then, it was anybody’s game as T-Team were unable to penetrate the home goal as well.
Another encouraging aspect from the match was that the Sabah players despite not being at their best still played as a unit and made life difficult for the more experienced T-Team.
They proved that team manager Hj Shariman Abdullah was right that they are a different team now than in the early season.
They were superior in terms of fitness on the pitch as T-Team players were struggling to keep pace with the home team until the sucker punch.