Sabah qualify for M’sia Cup quarters in style

 

By FRANCIS XAVIER

KOTA KINABALU: It is a good feeling all around for the Sabah Rhinos after earning their spot in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals following their 2-0 win over PKNP FC in the penultimate Group D tie at the Penang State Stadium in Batu Kawan on Sunday.

The three points gained also saw them emerge as group winners with a game to spare.

They occupy the top spot on 13 points from four wins and one draw. Their closest rivals, Pahang, who will also make it through into the knockout stage, are in second on eight points followed by PKNP FC four and Selangor three.

This will be their first quarter-final appearance in seven years. Their last was in 2011.

“Obviously, we’re all pretty much on cloud nine,” team manager Datuk Juil Nuatim said when contacted yesterday. “I could not be more proud of all the work the boys put in. They not only made the quarter-finals for themselves, but for all our beloved fans.

“The feeling is great to have achieved our pre-tournament target (reaching the quarters). We didn’t make it the last six years, so I’m really, really happy for the team.

“I think the boys deserved this (to be in the last eight). They have proven their worth. They overcame their rivals, who are all Super League sides,” he added.

“I would like to thank the team, players, coaches and officials alike for their sheer commitment and dedication all this while.

“I would also like to thank all our fans from throughout the nation for their support towards the team. I hope they would continue to rally behind the team in our upcoming matches.

“Our head coach Jelius (Ating) and his assistant Burhan (Ajui) have done a good job and deserve to be given a pat on the back. However, we must realise that our journey is still a long way to go.

“While the players may deserve to have a little celebration, but we must not forget that we still haven’t achieved anything as yet, so we must stay focused and work even harder in preparing ourselves for the knockout stage,” Juil said.

On Sunday, Sabah Rhinos’ first goal was slotted by Serbian striker, Rodoljub Paunovic in the 30th minute and in the second half, they doubled the score in the 81st minute through Puerto Rican import, Pito Ramos.

With the feat, Sabah Rhinos are certain to meet the runners-up of Group C in the last eight while Pahang will play against the winners of the same group.

At the moment, Group C is an open affair where all four teams still stand the chance of making it through. Current leaders MISC-MIFA and second-placed Kedah are holding the upper hand over their rivals – Johor Darul Ta’zim and Kelantan, who sit in third and fourth respectively.

Both MISC-MIFA and Kedah are level on eight points, but separated by goal difference while JDT are on six and Kelantan five.

For MISC-MIFA and Kedah, a draw in their final matches will be enough to secure their place in the quarters, while JDT need a simple win, with Kelantan needing a two-goal margin win over their rivals.

MISC-MIFA will conclude their group challenge by taking on JDT at the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya Stadium while Kedah will take on Kelantan at the Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium in Kota Bahru. Both matches will be played on September 15.

As for Sabah Rhinos, they will complete their group fixtures, playing Pahang at the Likas Stadium on September 16.

 
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New Sabah Times