KOTA KINABALU (Aug 13): Gabriel Peres came off the bench to score a stoppage time winner as Sabah FC overcame Liga Super rivals Kuala Lumpur City 3-2 at the Likas Stadium last night.
Peres, who replaced fellow central defender Dominic Tan midway into the second half, got the slightest of touch to Rizal Ghazali’s cross to divert the ball past goalkeeper Kevin Ray Mendoza Hansen.
Until then, the evenly contested match looked set to end in a draw until Peres’ intervention just before the final whistle.
The Rhinos went into the match trying to bounce back from their midweek 1-5 defeat to Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), which ended their unbeaten home record in the league.
However, Sabah knew well the match against KL City, who were the first team to beat Sabah in Likas in the Piala FA competition this season, would not be a walk in the park.
After a scoreless first half, the match burst into life in the 52nd minute when Stuart Wilkin picked up a neat pass from Telmo Castanheira before firing expertly into the bottom left corner to give Sabah the lead.
The joy was short-lived when Romel Ramirez nodded home from close range after the home defence failed to deal with a Declan Lammert’s cross in the 60th minute.
The goal came after Sabah custodian Damien Lim had made a superb point blank stop earlier, but KL City were quick to regain possession that led to Romires’ equaliser.
A confident KL City went on the attack again and captain Zhafry Yahya thought he had scored just four minutes later but his deflected shot came off the post.
KL City were not to be denied in the 71st minute when Muhammad Haqimi Azim Rosli powered a shot from the edge of the inside box to put the visitors 2-1 up.
Sabah head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee brought in Peres while pushing captain Park Tae Su, who started as centre back, to play in an advance role as the Rhinos looked for aerial advantage up front.
Attacking right back Rizal Ghazali was also brought in to provide support for the returning right winger Saddil Ramdani, who himself came in for Muhammad Jafry Chew at the start of the second half.
The second half replacements that also saw Farhan Roslan sent in were crucial to Sabah’s late revival, which started with Park’s much needed equaliser in the 79th minute.
Park showed composure in bringing down the ball after a weak clearance before turning to take the shot that took a deflection before sailing into the back of the net.
The Rhinos, cheered by thousand of fans, went all out in the final stages and their determination were rewarded after Rizal and Saddil combined well to create the vital winner scored by Peres.
The victory moved Sabah to fourth spot in the Liga Super Standing on 39 points from 21 games, having registered 12 wins, three draws and six losses.
Sabah will turn their focus to the Malaysia Cup Round-of-16 second leg tie against Kuching City FC at the Likas Stadium on August 19, where the Rhinos hold the edge after a 3-0 win in the first leg.