It’s now or never for the hopefuls


  • Other Sport
  • Saturday, 16 Aug 2003

BY RIZAL ABDULLAH

JOHOR BARU: It's make or break time for Super League hopefuls Johor FC, Sarawak and Premier II's Public Bank and Selangor MPPJ. 

Tonight, they will know if they get to play among the elite eight in Malaysia, Or, if they have to languish with the rest in the mediocre Premier One. 

After Wednesday's matches in the Klang Valley, the focus tonight shifts to the Pasir Gudang Football Stadium in Johor, where Johor FC take on Public Bank, and Kuching’s State Stadium, where Sarawak and Selangor MPPJ play their second-round, second-leg playoff match. 

BACK FROM SUSSPENSION: Johor FC leading Selangor Public Bank by 2-1 after the first leg, will welcome back midfielder Idris Karim for the return leg match at the Pasir Gudang Stadium tonight. Idris out the first match because of a ban.

Johor FC and MPPJ have one-goal cushions going into the game. But the slender lead is no guarantee of success. Johor FC, who beat Public Bank 2-1 in the first leg, seem to be the more comfortable. After all, they host their opponents today. 

MPPJ's one-goal advantage, after their 3-2 first-leg win, may be no advantage at all as they go into the home of the Crocs. 

Sarawak are the only state team still left in contention for a place in the elite group and too much pride is at stake for them. They will come at MPPJ, looking for the goals they need. 

Sarawak are further boosted by the return of striker Sapian Wahid who missed the first-leg because of injury. Sapian played a big role in Sarawak's march into the second round – scoring a goal each in their 3-1 win at home and 1-0 away to advance on a 4-1 aggregate. 

The Crocs, however, will have to keep a watch in MPPJ's dangerman, former international Anuar Abu Bakar, who has shown fine form in the playoffs. 

“There is a lot at stake in this match. We are carrying Sarawak's flag and we have pride and dignity to play for. This is enough to drive us on,” said Sarawak coach Jalil Ramli. 

Public Bank's form has taken a dip in the last two matches and their defeat to Johor FC on Wednesday was their first in 18 matches. The bankers, who scrapped past Johor on a 6-4 aggregate in the first round, will be hard pressed to overcome Johor FC on their home turf. 

Johor FC will also be strengthened with the return of international Eddie Helmi Manan and midfielder Idris Karim.  

Eddie missed the first-leg because of an ankle injury while Idris sat out the match because of suspension. 

“We are one up and we will take off from there,” said Johor FC's coaching and technical director Ronald Smith 

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