KOTA KINABALU: Sabah head coach Justin Ganai has mixed feelings after seeing his side steal a point in the 2-2 draw against Negeri Sembilan in an away tie of the Super League at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium on Saturday.
Justin was proud to see his charges fight their hearts out after trailing 2-0 at the hour mark and ended with the well-deserved draw, which he insisted was not an easy task.
However, he could not hide his disappointment on the way they conceded two easy or rather sloppy goals. The coach said they paid the price after the lapse of concentration which allowed Negeri Sembilan to take a two-goal lead.
The hosts drew first blood in the 54th minutes through its Cameroonian striker Jean-Emmanuel Owona’s header from inside the box before skipper Mohd Shukor Adan’s glancing header from an ensuing corner put them 2-0 up four minutes later.
With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, Shahrudin Yakup reduced the deficit for Sabah by slotting home from close range before setting up for Ronny Harun, who headed a powerful header from the edge of the six-yard box for the leveler.
Justin said during the half time break, he reminded his charges to stay focus and to be more alert.
“After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, which was evenly contested, I reminded them to be more focused. The reason being, we have observed in their previous games that most of the time, they scored inside the first 15 minutes, or early in the first half.
“In this match, they failed to score in the opening 15, but they managed to do it early in the first half. In both occasion, we were caught sleeping,” said Justin.
He said he had to make some tactical change after trailing two goals by switching Sumardi Hajalan from left back to the middle of the park in place of Radzi Hussin.
In the reshuffle, he said he replaced Radzi with Shahrul Azhar Ture, who was deployed deeper as right back than his usual role further up the pitch, to accommodate Ronnie going to left back.
“It was a tactical change. Alif (Radzi) had a good game but we needed something different…we improved after the changes were made,” said Justin.
Towards the end of the game Sabah managed to control the tie but were unfortunate not to score more goals, despite the numerous chances they created.
Justin expressed his concern on his team growing reputation as ‘draw specialists’.
“We always play to win but in certain situation one point is better than none. I will accept the draw against Negeri Sembilan because we were two goals down in an away game…it was never easy,” he said.
For the record, that was their sixth draw of the season, only Selangor PKNS, the team directly below them in the standing, have more with eight.
The point gained see Sabah remain ninth on the 14-team league on 15 points from 12 matches, winning three times, drawn six and three losses.
Sabah’s quest for a top five finish is still pretty much intact as they are only six points behind third place Terengganu from the same amount of matches played while leaders Lions XII FC, on 14 games, lead with 30 points followed by Kelantan on 27 points but with a game in hand.
Sabah will conclude the first round fixtures against Perak at the Likas Stadium on April 14 – which is a must-win game if they are to mingle among the top teams.