BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Negeri Sembilan reach the 2017 FA Cup semi-final and will await the victor between Pahang and Johor Darul Ta'zim after playing out a scrappy 0-0 draw with Sabah in the second leg of the quarterfinal match-up. The 1-0 first leg win proved to be decisive as both teams failed to convert any of the chances created.
Negeri Sembilan was without the service of Lee Tuck who was suspended and head coach Asri Ninggal started with Izzudin Zainudin in his stead. It was the only change from the side that won 1-0 in the away first leg. Meanwhile Sabah's Jelius Ating dropped five players including Jonathan Behe and Sofiane Choubani with Rahman Shah and Maxsius Musa coming in respectively.
The changes seemed to work in favour of the away side as they dominated play right from the kick-off. After only two minutes played, Sabah was the first to threatened when Masaya Jitozono latched on to Leopold Alfonso's cross but could only hit the post from an acute angle.
The Rhinos were on top of the game and it was proving to be a difficult night for the home team and a discouraging night for the packed Paroi Stadium. Sabah showed more desire and were winning battles all over the pitch, and at the same time keeping Marko Simic and Bruno Suzuki in tight checks.
So disappointed was Asri with his charges that he was forced to make a tactical switch in the 31st minute of the first half. Izuan Salahuddin was brought on for the largely ineffective Izzudin, although a charge that could be labeled at many of his team mates.
The change brought about a different mood in the game as The Jangs started to get into the game a bit more. However, it was Sabah who could have gone ahead before half time. In the 44th minute, following confusion inside the penalty box, the ball fell onto the path of Jitozono. However, the Japanese scuffed his shot and it was a comfortable save for Kaharuddin Rahman.
After the break, the home side came out with renewed confidence and showed for ths first time in this match, why are they are still unbeaten this season. The energy spent by Sabah in the first half was taking its toll on them and they just couldn't sustained the same pressure that they put in the opening half of the match.
As Negeri Sembilan started to dictate matters, the likes of Simic and Suzuki increasingly found more space to operate. They duo saw more of the ball and with that, the home side fashioned chances at goal but were to be denied by the framework on several occasions.
In the 57th minute, Simic struck the post with a left footed shot from outside the penalty box and just three minutes later, Khairul Anwar matched his effort with his own post bound shot after being put through inside the box by Suzuki.
It was all Negeri Sembilan at this point and without quality replacements from the bench, Jelius stucked to the same players hoping they can somehow find a second wind in the match. The home side continued on the offense and Noor Hazrul was next to hit the framework as his 73rd minute free kick cannoned off the crossbar.
Sabah put up a spirited albeit limited fight but just couldn't breach a tough Negeri Sembilan back line. In truth, the home side could have scored a few in the second half to make it a non-contest but 0-0 was the final score and fans of The Jangs can celebrate long into the night.