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 Sports

Sabah in Group of Death!

240719_coach-colour
JELIUS … hopes winning the 2019 Premier League title will spur his Tambadau side to do well in the Malaysia Cup.

24th July, 2019

By FRANCIS XAVIER

KOTA KINABALU: Newly crowned Premier League champs, Sabah have been drawn in a Group of Death in the Malaysia Cup challenge.

They have the company of defending champion Perak, Super League runners up Pahang and Penang in Group C in the country’s oldest cup competition.

For Sabah, this is one bumpy ride to glory particularly when they have the likes of Perak and Pahang in the group. Even the rejuvenated Penang side are no pushovers.

All the three teams have won the Cup multiple times while Sabah have yet to win it despite making three final appearances in 1996, 2002 and 2003.

Perak clinched the title eight times with latest being last year. Prior to that, they were also the winners in 1926, 1931, 1957, 1967, 1970, 1998, 2000, 2018.

As for Pahang, they have won it four times. The last time was in 2014. They were also the winners in 1983, 1992 and 2013 while Penang too have won it four times in 1953, 1954, 1958, 1974.

Head coach Jelius Ating admitted that this a tough group and that he hopes their feat of winning their first title in more than two decades will help spur his Tambadau side to do well in the competition.

“We are in a very strong group just like we were in last year. We have defending champion, Perak this year and last year we had FA Cup, holder Pahang. This time we also have Pahang, who are runner-up in the Super League “We are definitely in a Group of Death. Of course, we would like to be in an easy group but we must remember that all 16 are the top teams in the M-League,” said Jelius when contacted yesterday.

“We need to play like we did in the league this season. Malaysia Cup is a different ball game and there is an opportunity for upsets. Sometimes favourites will not make it just like last year where Selangor was out in the group stage.

“We just have to adapt to the situation and I hope the players will carry their winning mentality in the league forward and try their very best to do well in the Malaysia Cup,” he added.

The draw that was held at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, yesterday saw Super League champion Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) were drawn in Group B along with PJ City FC, PKNP FC and UiTM FC. Selangor, who have won the prestigious competition a record 33 times, were drawn in Group D together with Melaka, Felda United FC and PDRM.

Last year’s runners up Terengganu FC are in Group A with Kedah, PKNS FC and Negeri Sembilan.

For the record, last year, Sabah were also drawn along with Pahang in Group D together with Selangor and PKNP FC.

Then Sabah won the group while Pahang finished as runners up and Selangor in third.

Sabah went on to reach the semi-finals before they were being shown the exit door by Perak after losing 7-2 on aggregate.

In the first leg, they were hammered 5-0 by Perak in Ipoh before playing to a two-all draw in Likas. En route to the last four encounters, Sabah, overcame Kelantan on away goal rules after the teams were tied two-all on aggregate.

Kelantan won the first leg 2-1 in Kota Bharu while Sabah registered a 1-0 win in Likas, on the return leg. While Pahang were beaten 3-1 on aggregate by JDT.

The Malaysia Cup that enters its 93rd edition this year is expected to kick off early next month.

Based on the tournament’s format, the two best teams from each of the four groups qualify for the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Perak head coach Mehmet Durakovic who guided the team to clinch the Malaysia Cup last season, revealed that his charges were set to face a daunting task, however, he was confident the players would give their best to retain the title.

He added that Pahang and Sabah would be the teams to look out for based on their performance in the Super League and Premier League respectively.

“It’s a very tough group, and it would not be easy for us as Pahang and Sabah are drawn into the same group, but hopefully, we will try our best to qualify for the finals,” he said.

Penang headcoach Manzoor Azwira Abdul Wahid, meanwhile pointed out that the Black Panthers’ were ready to take up the challenge in Group C despite having to face three ‘favourites’.

“Actually, the three teams have been to the Malaysian Cup finals several times, and we will try to compete with them,” he said.

Meanwhile, the former Perlis coach said the team’s unfortunate circumstance to not make it into the Super League next season following six docked points should be cast aside by the squad in order to fully concentrate on the Malaysia Cup. – Bernama

   
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