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 Sports

Jelius optimistic despite depleted first-team squad

13th July, 2018

By FRANCIS XAVIER

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Rhinos will be a depleted side when they face off with Terengganu FC II in a Premier League tie at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in Kuala Terengganu, tonight.

Head coach Jelius Ating said his Japanese midfielder Keisuke Ogawa will be among the four key players missing from the 9pm tie.

Defenders Mafry Balang, Jenius Karib and youngster Randy Baruh @ Samson too will not be around. All the fours are first team players.

Jelius said Ogawa, Mafry and Jenius are yet to recover from their respective injuries while Randy is serving his one-match automatic suspension after picking up his third yellow card in their 2-3 defeat to Sarawak away in their last fixture on June 26.

Despite all the circumstances, Jelius remains upbeat on returning home with something from the tie.

“We have had about two weeks or so to prepare the team for this tie, so I guess we are ready. I believe the players that we have for this tie could mount a strong challenge against our opponents,” said Jelius, adding that he might give youngsters in the team the chance to fill in the vacuum left by Ogawa, Mafry, Jenius and Randy.

“There are only four more matches left, including this one against Terengganu FC II. So, obviously, there is certainly no room for more slip ups. We need the points to keep the pace with the top teams. Winning will be our top priority (against Terengganu FC II),” said Jelius.

“I hope the players will give their all in the tie because dropping more points may see us being pipped by teams below us. So, we need to start focusing and giving our best in the game.

Sabah Rhinos are currently fifth in the standings on 21 points from five wins, six draws and five defeats, while Terengganu FC II languish at the bottom of the standings on 17 points from four wins, five draws and eight defeats. In their first meeting, Sabah Rhinos won 4-1 at the Likas Stadium on February 2, which was then the season opener.

Jelius said that he will start either Rozaimi Rohim or Robson Rendy Rining as his first choice custodian tonight. “At the moment, I’m still undecided. Rozaimi has been our first-choice ball stopper in our last few games, but for tomorrow, I will make my decision at the eleventh hour. I’ll see how it goes,” said Jelius.

At the backline, Jelius hinted that he is likely to hand youngster Evan Wensley Wenceslaus first-team action. The national Under-23 trainee will start alongside former Zambian international Francis Kasonde, captain Rawilson Batuil and Dendy Lowa.

In midfield, another youngster Hamran Peter will fill in the vacuum left by Ogawa.

He will have the likes of Mohd Azzizan Nordin, Maxsius Musa and Sabri Sahar orchestrating the team’s engine room with Serbian Rodoljub Paunovic and Puerto Rican forward Pito Ramos spearheading the attack.

Ummareng Bacok, Ricco Nigel Milus, Melky Balang, Justin Samaan, Alto Linus, Rahman Shah Marajeh were also part of the travelling squad.

   
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