Effa Owona (left) in a file photo. He brought a much-needed pace to Negri Sembilan's game against PBAPP FC, although the match ended in a goalless draw on Jan 27, 2014.
GEORGE TOWN: Negri Sembilan coach V. Sundramoorthy insists that his team did not underestimate PBAPP FC in their 0-0 Premier League stalemate at the City Stadium.
Although they were the visiting side, Negri had been expected to walk over the Premier League debutants from Penang on Monday. PBAPP have an all-local line-up comprising mostly players who have never played in the top two divisions before this season.
Negri Sembilan failed to dominate from the start, and only raised their tempo after Cameroonian striker Effa Owona replaced the injured Czech midfielder Jozef Kaplan in the 38th minute.
The visitors created many scoring chances in the second half, but could not beat the on-form PBAPP goalkeeper Ismail Abdul Rahman. Owona crashed two of his efforts against the woodwork, while South Korean midfielder Kim Jin-ryong saw his point blank shot hit the overworked Ismail’s leg and loop over the bar.
The Waterboys’ best chance fell to their isolated striker K. Ravindran, who rattled the Negri Sembilan crossbar with a long range attempt in the first half.
“We didn’t take PBAPP lightly. We don’t consider ourselves superior to others and treat every opponent with respect. We knew it would be a tough game as PBAPP had held Felda to a 1-1 draw last week,” said Sundramoorthy.
“I have no complaints about my players’ performance as Negri created many opportunities but their goalkeeper was in outstanding form. On another day, we would have scored several goals. PBAPP also had chances to score, but it was Negri’s game to win and we lost two points here.”
The former Singapore international agreed that Owona’s inclusion injected the much-needed pace into Negri’s game and allowed them to dominate.
“It was unfortunate that I had to substitute Jozef early after he picked up an injury. But the change worked as Effa’s pace helped us open up the PBAPP defence and we finished the stronger team.
“There are 10 new players in the Negri squad this year and they need more matches to develop as a winning team. We will get stronger as the season goes on.”
Sundram, who led Lions XII to the Super League title last year, revealed that it was not just his players who needed time to get to know one another.
“During my time with Lions XII, I worked with a group of young players whom I guided through the years.
“When I joined Negri Sembilan, I started with a new set of players. It is a new challenge for me to learn each player’s characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.”
Monday’s draw left Negri, who beat DRB Hicom 2-1 on the opening day, in fourth position on four points in the 12-team Premier League. PBAPP are eighth with two points.
Police and Kedah, who beat Penang 5-1 and DRB Hicom 2-0 respectively, top the table with six points.