Almost All Hands On Deck For Sabah Visit

Match Preview Super League Vs Sabah FC


The City Boys finally got out of the winless rut of the opening 3 matches in the Super League, with last Saturdays 2-0 result at home over Melaka United, an overdue boost to our sapping confidence. Even though it is still early days in the league, the calamitous defending that saw us concede 3 goals per match to top level opposition beginning with the season opener Charity Cup, was definitely a cause of concern and set tongues wagging amongst our Sampai Mati Kuala Lumpur faithful, and the clean sheet gained in that victory gave hope that we are back on track to do as before, more so with key players returning to the fore for the visit of high flying Sabah on Saturday.


The entry of Ong Kim Swee as The Rhinos head coach at the tail end of last season was just another phase of their ambitions towards becoming a domestic football powerhouse, much like when they were a feared side in the mid to late nineties and the early noughties. After being stuck in the Premier League (second level) for 7 years since going down from the Super League in 2012, their comeback began in 2019 by regaining a ticket to the top division, completely dominating the Premier League that season. However, their forays in the Super League for the past two years, have not been to plan, often mired in lower mid-table and relegation scraps, saw them do away with the services of Indonesian superstar and former Sarawak player Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto, who helmed them as head coach for 2020 and till August 2021. Ong, who was last in charge of a Super League side in 2011 with Harimau Muda A, came mid-way through Sabah’s Malaysia Cup campaign last year and immediately he was a hit, steering them to finish second in the group to go through to the quarter-finals which they crashed out to Melaka Utd. This season he has made wholesale changes in the Bornean team, with the addition of several players who were with him during his charge of the National set-up in various capacities from 2009 to 2021. The Peninsular Invasion saw the likes of champions such as Baddrol Bakhtiar, Rizal Ghazali, N. Thanabalan, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Gary Steven Robbat, Dominic Tan, Irfan Fazail and Nazirul Naim Che Hashim, joining and they can also count on 41 year old veteran Amri Yahya in their armour to lend his wealth of experience and knowledge in the dressing room and especially when things need to be shaken up on the pitch. Together with their foreign legion of Brazilians Neto Pessoa up front and defender Jackson de Souza, Japanese striker Taiki Kagayama, defender Park Tae-Soo from South Korea and Indonesian midfielder Saddil Ramdani, Sabah are determined to realise Ong’s target of a Top 5 finish this year and regain their lost glory. Their season began with a unfortunate reverse at home to Negeri Sembilan. Despite dominating the chances, they were unlucky not to have been rewarded with at least a point, after Pessoa’s penalty was saved. However, it has been three victories on the trot since then to move second in the standings with a 3-1 home win over Petaling Jaya City, and 1-0 away victories at Melaka Utd and Sarawak Utd. Their strength in making the most of dead ball situations was all evident against PJ, scoring twice from free kicks and a corner, while a late penalty gave them maximum points in the Bornean derby. Melaka Utd troubled them, but they managed to keep the Hang Tuah side at bay, and made the most of some poor defending to score the only goal of the match. They are hard to beat, having conceded only 2 goals thus far, from a counter-attack down their left vs The Phonix and a free kick situation that Khairul Fahmi could have done better at his near post vs The Jangs.


Head coach Bojan has almost all hands on deck for this visit of The Rhinos. There were whispers in the air that our first three points of the season only came courtesy of Melaka Utd’s off-field problems, and that the Hang Tuah were missing three of their foreign attackers. We will definitely be seeking to produce a convincing performance for the naysayers and doubters. For the first time this season, we have the liberty of all key players being available and confidence in the dressing room and the training pitch is on the up. Romel’s performance against Melaka Utd, if used as a yardstick, signals that we are on the mend, and with Koubemba and Zhafri set to return to the starting eleven following their injuries and Kenny back from suspension after the red card in the Johor DT fixture, we are close to getting back on the right track. A tough match indeed, but we have the personnel and the armoury and it will be interesting to see how Bojan, who was also the National Under-19 coach from 2017 to 2019, lines up the team against his former FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) colleague Ong.


This Saturday’s clash will be the 30th time both teams will be meeting each other since the beginning of the Super League & Premier League divisions in 2004. The City Boys just shade the overall head to head record with 11 wins over the The Rhinos’ ten, with 8 matches ending in draws. Due to contrasting fortunes, both sides did not meet each other from 2017 to 2019, but we have not lost to Sabah in the past 6 meetings since 2016, winning 3 of those, while Sabah’s last win over us came in 2015 in the Premier League, where they did the double over us that year, winning 2-0 in the afternoon heat at Stadium Merdeka, and 1-0 away. Last season, we drew twice with them; we were unlucky not to have won in the scoreless meet in Cheras, and Levy Madinda’s 66th minute superbly struck freekick rescued them a point in Likas after Randy Baruh’s own goal from Hadin’s pressure, midway through the first half gave us the lead.


Izreen who is recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee, remains the only player in the treatment room, while Nik Shahrul is back in training after a knee issue sustained last November during our Malaysia Cup group match vs Penang.


The Super League Match Day 5 fixture between Kuala Lumpur City and Sabah is on Saturday, April 16, 2022, at 10PM (2200hrs), in Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium, Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras.


Tickets for the Super League match against Sabah FC are available at the following link,


For Season Ticket Holders (B2 City Boys), enjoy 20% off regular ticket prices for your friends and/or family. (Limited to a maximum of 4 tickets per transaction. Contact Shamim for details).