Having confirmed their promotion to next season’s Super League last weekend, Sabah on Tuesday confirmed their Premier League supremacy, after defeating UiTM FC 2-1 in their week 20 encounter at the UiTM Stadium, Shah Alam.
Although the hosts drew first blood through Zarko Korac’s 31st minute free kick, the visitors turned the scoreline around in the second half, through Rodoljub Paunovic’s 58th-minute penalty and Aguinaldo Mendes’ 67th minute goal.
The Rhinos’ victory means that they will be returning to Malaysia’s top tier for the first time since 2012, as well as becoming the first East Malaysian side to play in the top tier since Sarawak in 2017.
Speaking in the post-match press conference, an elated Sabah head coach Jelius Ating spoke of how the success of his team was three years in the making.
“I joined Sabah at a time when things were not well with the team, so I had to introduce changes and re-teach football to the players. They have to have the desire to succeed and be good players, because victory begins with them. I am by no means an accomplished coach, but I worked on their character and mentality.
“For the past three years, what we’ve been doing was forming a squad, not just a team, which has now borne fruit. The league is a long campaign, and we needed our back-up and younger players to step in whenever the key players were unavailable. I did away with seniority in favour of picking the best players, in order to foster a healty competition among the players,” explained the former Sabah player.
Acting association president Datuk Peter Anthony meanwhile is bullish that the side will be able to obtain sufficient financial backing for their top-tier campaign in 2020, while adding that the financial rewards for the players and staff will be announced by the Sabah state Chief Minister, during their title ceremony when they play Kelantan at home this Saturday.
“A state team such as Sabah won’t face any problems attracting sponsors and backers, and I believe we will be able to do it.”
source – goal.com