KOTA KINABALU: Sabah made an early exit from the FA Cup competition after bowing out to KL Sime Darby in the first round encounter at the MP Selayang Stadium yesterday.
The late afternoon match saw the State squad conceding defeat to the Premier League outfit after losing to two first half goals, including one from the spot.
Shazlan Alias scored the opener in the 40th minute for the host before their foreign signing Patrick R. Wleh made it 2-0 from the spot seconds before the half time break.
The defeat left Sabah with five matches without a win on the road.
Sticking to his word, Sabah head coach Justin Ganai started the game with his strongest lineup, but found out that it was not good enough to humble their opponent, who scored twice five minutes before the break.
Azizon Abd Kadir started ahead of Syed Adney Syed Hussien at the goal while his back four lineup saw familiar faces such as Md Reithuddin Ag Emran, Mohd Fariss Azlan Mat Isa, Sumardi Hajalan and Ronny Harun.
While in midfield, he sticked to Zainizam Marjan and Brendan Gan with Shahrudin Yakup on the right and Md Rozaimi Abd Rahman on the left.
When contacted, Justin said they have themselves to blame for their failure to translate their chances into goals.
“We were in control of the game, and had two chances, but their (Sime Darby) goalkeeper (Redzuan Harun) was in top form. He played superbly.
“We conceded a sloppy first goal, which shouldn’t have been a goal, but the second was the killer blow as it was scored just before the first half whistle.
Justin said, the players tried their best to overcome the deficit in the remaining 45 minutes, but could not find the much-needed goals.
In the game, Justin made three substitutions bringing in Alto Linus, Bobby Gonzales and Shahrul Azhar Ture from Ronny, Leopold and Sharudin respectively.
“After trailing by two goals, we made changes and that was why Alto was playing further forward rather than at the back. It was hard to break them down because they defended in numbers to protect their lead.
According to Justin, they created at least three good chances at scoring including two of them with only the keeper to beat.
In another occasion, he pointed out Rozaimi’s free-kick was brilliantly saved by the Sime Darby custodian Redzuan.
“I guess it was just one of those days. We created enough chances to win the game, but just could not score. It was just not our day,” said Justin.
The defeat has left Sabah to focus on their Super League campaign, and later the Malaysia Cup.
Next, Justin said he will prepare the team to face the national side in a friendly at the Likas Stadium on Feb 24 before they resume their Super League challenge playing host to Johor FC on March 3.