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Happy return for Serbian Paunovic

9th June, 2018


KOTA KINABALU: Striker Rodoljub Paunovic was pleased and happy to have made a winning comeback with the Sabah Rhinos.

The team registered their first win in eight matches on Thursday on his return into the state fold.

Prior to this win, Sabah merely managed to record three draws and four defeats in their last seven outings. For Paunovic, this is his second spell with the stateside after signing a one-year deal during the recent transfer window.

The Serbian striker said despite not being able to put his name on the score sheet, it felt great to make a winning comeback, and help the team end their winless run.

In the tie, Zambian defender Francis Kasonde, midfielder Sabri Sahar and Puerto Rico forward Pito Ramos scored one goal each in their 3-0 win over UiTM FC at the UiTM Stadium in Shah Alam.

Paunovic, who arrived from Serbia early Wednesday and only joined the team later on the same evening, said that what mattered most was for the team to achieve its goal of wanting to end its barren run.

“I have already said it earlier, it doesn’t matter who scores the goals, as the most important thing is we get all the three points, and we did that on Thursday, and obviously, I’m very happy and pleased to have made a winning comeback.

“I feel so good and strong now because of the win. When we look at the game, I think we dominated possession throughout … from goalkeeper to strikers. I thought we did really well.

“We listened to instructions from our coach (Jelius Ating), who stayed near the byline for the entire match, which really inspired us to give everything,” said Paunovic.

“We played a simple game with great teamwork and discipline. I think this could be the beginning of better things to come for the team. If we can keep playing like this, I think, we can put up a better show next time around,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jelius was also a delighted man after the win. He hoped the victory could help motivate his team to continue their quest of making the best possible finish in the league.

“Overall, I’m happy with the performance of the team. The players seemed to try their very best at all times in the game. It was not an easy task considering the fact that we had failed to win in our last seven matches. But they managed to do a good job,” said Jelius.

He admitted that the presence of Paunovic gave the team a positive impact, particularly in their finishing. “He worked really on the field. Although he did not score, he managed to bring that positive attitude into the team. With his tireless running, it gave room for his team-mates to score goals,” he said.

Jelius said it will be training as usual for the team today before they take a three-day break in conjunction with the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations next week.

“Our next game will only be on June 20, against MISC-MIFA, and I hope the long break will give some of our players enough days to recuperate from their injuries.

“We have a few players who took some knocks against UiTM FC. Rawilson (Batuil), Mafry (Balang) and Maxsius (Musa) are all carrying injuries.

“Rawilson and Maxsius should be okay for our next game, but I’m a little bit worried about Mafry. Hopefully, he will be okay by then,” he said.

With the win, Sabah Rhinos remain fifth in the standings on 18 points from four wins, six draws and four defeats.

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