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Pre-match Warmups: 5 things we should know about Sabah FC @Likas

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Submitted by: Vesuvius | 20th September 2023

A Sumatran rhino paces about in Sabah as Hougang united take on Sabah FC
📸Stock image

Imagine going to Sabah to enjoy the scenery around Kota Kinabalu. You go to enjoy the nature: Kinabalu Park, Mantanani Island or the world-renowned Danum Valley Conservation Area in Lahad Datu. As you soak in the flora and fauna, you discover the myriad of animals in their diverse ecosystem. Their wildlife species cover such unique creatures like the bornean banteng, clouded leopard, orang utan, loris, proboscis monkey, bornean pygmy elephant, Sumatran rhinos etc. How can one place have so much such diverse unique beasts?

"How can one place have so much such diverse unique beasts?"

Those were my thoughts when I went through the lineups for Sabah FC this season. They have so many talented malaysian footballers as well as a whole stack of quality foreign imports in their team.

Just this year alone, they've employed foreigners such as Gabriel Peres, Telmo Castanheira, Jailton Paraiba, Kwang Min Ko, Ramon Machado, Miguel Cifuentes, and Jacob Njoku. Only the last two came from other Malaysian Super League(MSL) clubs. Don't forget the quality foreigners that they already have in their regular lineup like Park Tae-Su and Saddil Ramdani.

The reason is that each MSL team can register 9 foreign players and field 5 of them. Southeast Asian players with 3 int'l caps have no restrictions. This is a stark contrast from the SPL where we can only register and field 4 foreign players.

This is one of the five things we're going to delve into in this article: 5 things we should know about Sabah FC (and how we can lose if we don't prepare against it).

1. 6 Imports vs 4 Imports

As mentioned above, Sabah FC have a myriad of foreign talents on their side. Hougang on the other hand, only have 4. Sabah FC can literally pick anyone of them to fill-up the AFC foreign quota of 5+1. Hougang can only live and die with the 4 that we have.

"Sabah FC can literally pick anyone of them to fill-up the AFC foreign quota of 5+1. Hougang can only live and die with the 4..."

Their foreign imports are no pushovers as well. Kwang Min Ko came from FC Seoul, Park Tae Soo has experience in several K-league1 clubs, Telmo just came from Europe with many Portuguese teams, Ramon Machado who came from multiple brazilian and Azerbaijani teams have scored 6 in 7 games, Jailton Paraiba just came from Tokyo Verdy of J2 and Saddil Ramdani, the Indonesian international, has returned to the MSL with much vigor being a set piece specialist.

Watching these players play is really a sight to behold. There's really no "deadweight foreign imports" in their team. Their team is capable of shooting accurately from range... and have a depth of technical quality. It's really going to be tough to contain them if we don't concentrate or slip-up.

** Ramon Machado, a Sabah FC foreign import has been in red hot form. 📸 credit: Malaysian Super League.

Although I don't fully endorse it, I do hope that we can add or loan some foreign reinforcements, especially because we also have the Singapore cup and it's the end of the season.

2. Their "Timnas"(tim nasional) Players

Let's not forget the abundance of repeat-timnas players at their disposal. They have Khairul Fahmi(61 caps) as their GK, Rizal Ghazali(19 caps) as their RB, Daniel Ting(2 caps) as their LB, Dominic Tan(Singapore-born but now has 20 caps for M'sia) as their de-facto CB, Stuart Wilkin(11 caps) as CM and Darren Lok(22 caps) as a CF. There's quality in every position.

Meanwhile our players have hung around the fringes of the NT except for Zulfahmi, Nazrul, Zaiful and Shahdan. The good news is that the number of caps between these four players should more than cover the number of caps on Sabah's timnas players. Haha!

Our fantastic four should be at their golden best and if the other local players step up too, this point should be where we can gain an advantage against Sabah FC. I'm looking forward to seeing Shahdan take revenge against Stuart Wilkin after the former was turned inside out for Malaysia's third goal when Singapore lost to Malaysia in Bukit Jalil last year. I'm also looking forward to Amy Recha, Sahil and Gabriel going above and beyond to show that they still have their beast form.

"...looking forward to seeing Shahdan take revenge against Stuart Wilkin after the former was turned inside out for Malaysia's third goal when Singapore lost to Malaysia in Bukit Jalil..."

3. Long Flat Throws

Daniel Ting gets a towel from the throw-in line, he wipes the ball, takes a few steps back until he's well into the running track, then proceeds to launch a long flat throw into the opponent's penalty box. Now repeat the same actions on the right side of the field with Rizal Ghazali. I'm sure Rory Delap would've been proud.

Jokes aside though. The fact that there's no offside rule when it comes to throw-ins make this even harder to defend. I am sure that the opponents will take note of Zaiful's lack of height when they prepare for the throw-in. Plus, we're not so good defending set-pieces. Maksimovic would have to be back defending throw-ins too.

I hope that just for this game, we employ Zainol Gulam as the goalkeeper just so he can commandeer throw-ins so close to our penalty area. Either that, or we don't concede a throw-in near our 6-yard box in Likas Stadium!

4. Grass pitches are very slippery

Tampines Rovers found out the hard way. This is when Shuya Yamashita conceded the first goal against Sabah FC in their pre-season friendly at Likas stadium. While playing the ball out from the back, Shuya slipped on the ground allowing Daniel Lok to nip the ball away from him and charge to goal. Darren was brought down and the ref gave a penalty. On the other end later on, Tampines's Yasir Hanapi slipped while Tampines were on a counter-attack.

"...Shuya slipped on the ground allowing Darren Lok to nip the ball away..."

Could it be that Tampines are not used to playing on natural grass pitches? Or could the literal slip-ups be avoided if they wore FG football boots instead? Let's hope our cheetahs grab their favorite FG boots when they play to Likas, otherwise all the hardwork and concentration would be undone unnecessarily!

5. The threat of Saddil Ramdani and Ramon Machado

Not enough can be said about the effectiveness of Saddil on set-pieces. He excels in freekicks from the right, where he can use his favored left foot to score with accuracy. Sabah FC will waste no time getting in areas outside of the opponent's box and wait for a foul. In open play, Saddil would also invert from the right flank to shoot on his left with devastating effect. In the days of old, these are the kind of players that will be stomped on. Thank god there's no VAR in this competition so there will hopefully be lesser fouls given when our players try to stop Saddil.

On the other hand, Ramon Machado has been in really hot form for Sabah FC. The centre forward has scored 6 goals in 7 games at the time of writing. He's quick, agile and clever with a good long-range shot on him. Our japanese defensive duo would need to be at their best. Pair this guy with Saddil and Darren lok and it's going to be a very very tough night.

Our players would do well to get back defending and be ready to spring a quick counter to win against this 'attack-heavy' opponent. Come on boys! You can do it! 1H1H

— images displayed are from Sabah fc unless otherwise stated.


Sabah FC Quick Report:

-Prefer 3-4-3 formation in attack, 5-3-2 when defending

-Prefer an attacking style, not much on defending. Eerily similar to balestier. Is it a coincidence that Peter de Roo and Ong Kim Swee used to be the TD for FAM?

-Will employ successful route-one long balls over the top especially against teams that like to play tiki-taka.

-Thankfully slow defending on transitions, especially when most of their team is so far upfield.

-Their wingbacks usually will form a 5 at the back when defending, but if they're marking a runner on the flanks, they won't be compact, leaving just 3 men in defence.

-Passive in trying to close down long-range shots.

-Buoyed by the exploits of KL City last year to reach the AFC cup final, Sabah has stated their intentions to go all the way and win it. This mentality shift will surely force them to be aggressive in this fixture.

-VAR technology is rumored to be introduced to Likas stadium for the first time and it will be used when Hougang first play Sabah. This should be great news for our team as the opponents' do not know what to expect. Their tackles and challenges will have to be far cleaner. Find the article here

— Tune in to post-match results in our "Upcoming" section of the website after the matchday. Livestreaming of the match will be here for fellow Singaporeans!


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