National Team - Lions ● Nov 22, 2018
Safuwan: It’s been a while since Lions played with freedom
SINGAPORE, 22 NOVEMBER 2018 – Lions defender Safuwan Baharudin was delighted at the football on display at the National Stadium on Wednesday from the team in their 6-1 victory over Timor-Leste in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
The hosts went on the offensive from the first whistle and registered a total of 26 shots by full-time, with 14 of those on target.
It was Safuwan who got the ball rolling, heading in Zulfahmi Arifin’s corner for his first ever Suzuki Cup goal and he had the final say too, completing his hat-trick to sandwich a brace from Ikhsan Fandi and a goal from Faris Ramli.
While five of the goals came at set-piece situations, Fandi Ahmad’s men dished out slick attacking football on several occasions that forced their opponents into committing several fouls. Ikhsan and Gabriel Quak also drew gasps from the 18,408 spectators with nifty moves and Safuwan agreed that the Lions enjoyed themselves during the match.
“We started out really well (and in the) first few minutes, we had two or three chances,” he told the FAS website. “It’s been a while (since) we played with freedom and also (got the) goals to flow to get the crowd (going).”
The 27-year-old admitted that the goal conceded – barely a minute after he broke the deadlock – was “really, really soft” but believes that the end result justified the bold attacking strategy employed.
“At the end of the day, we controlled the game for the whole 90 minutes,” the Man of the Match said. “We were growing (better) defensively and attackingly as a team; I think it’s been a long time we really showcased that kind of performance (like we did) tonight.”
The Pahang FA man certainly relished the occasion as he notched some personal records during the game. The centre-back made his 17th consecutive Suzuki Cup start, with the first coming in 2010.
The hat-trick was Safuwan’s first ever in his professional career, including at club level, while it took his international tally to ten goals in 84 caps. He also became only the second Singaporean to score a hat-trick in the tournament after Noh Alam Shah; the latter first did it in a 4-2 win over Myanmar in January 2005, then struck a record seven goals in the 11-0 thrashing of Laos in January 2007. Both times, Singapore went on to win the tournament. Safuwan is also the first player to score more than two goals since Alam Shah’s 2007 feat – almost 12 years ago.
“I am happy that I scored (the hat-trick) especially in front of the crowd, (who were) waiting for this moment,” said Safuwan, who celebrated his last goal, a brilliant header from a difficult angle off Hariss Harun’s cross, in front of the crowd.
“I was trying to really get the third goal; I wasn’t being selfish but I sensed that the third goal was going to come in the last few minutes and thankfully, it came right at the death of the game.”
Safuwan was quick to turn his attentions to the final group match against Thailand next, with the Lions due to depart later today for the fixture in Bangkok on Sunday. Victory will guarantee progress into the semi-finals and Safuwan feels the team has to be up for the fight.
“I think it’s time to really cool ourselves down, take it a day at a time and enjoy the last few trainings before we really push for Thailand,” he said. “There is no doubt about (settling for) one point or whatsoever; it’s all about (gunning for the) three points there.”