PETALING JAYA: Sabah want to ride on the momentum to earn early qualification for the AFC Cup zonal semi-final when they take on Singapore’s Hougang United in their Group H match at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
The high-riding Rhinos lead Group H with nine points after four matches, three more than second-placed Hai Phong of Vietnam.
PSM Makassar, who also have six points, are third due to an inferior goal difference while Hougang prop up the group with three points.
With two more matches to play in the group stage, the berth to the zonal semi-final round is still wide open and Sabah coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has warned his men not to underestimate the hosts.
Kim Swee has good experience when it comes to the Singapore football scene as he guided Harimau Muda to a respectable fourth-place finish in the 2012 S-League season.
But he downplayed the suggestion that his knowledge will make a difference this time against a Singaporean club side.
“It’s an important match for both teams, I expect a tough game. It will be an interesting game and we cannot take things lightly but hopefully, we can get a positive result,” said the former national team coach.
Sabah beat Hougang 3-1 at their home venue in September but Kim Swee added that the intensity will be different because both teams need a result.
“We need a good result to put us in a good situation.
“It’s good to be back here but it’s totally different now. I was with a youth team - Harimau Muda in the S-League before, now I’m with a club team... being back here, it doesn’t mean that with a past record in Singapore it will be easy - we can only get a good result with hard work.
“We need to be fully focused, we expect a different game from Hougang. We have the momentum, we’ve been very disciplined in our last few matches, so we can get a positive result,” said Kim Swee, who added their hope is to emulate Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), who won the AFC Cup in 2015 and Kuala Lumpur City, who were AFC Cup runners-up in 2022.