* Spinal injury cuts short Safuwan’s Australian loan stint
* Fandi Ahmad wise enough to get the defender registered during April transfer windo
* Played a key role in semi-final matches against Terengganu
He played no matches in the Super League because he was on a loan stint with Melbourne City in the Australian League.
But defender Safuwan Baharudin is a vital cog in coach Fandi Ahmad’s match strategies in this Saturday’s FA Cup final against Kelantan at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The 23-year-old featured for Lions XII in both legs of the FA Cup semi-finals against Terengganu.
Lions won the first-leg 2-1 at home at the Jalan Besar Stadium but lost 2-3 in the second-leg at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium in Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu which left both teams tied 4-4 on aggregate.
The Singapore outfit, however, advanced to the final on away goals.
Fandi was wise enough to get him registered during the April transfer window and Safuwan, who has recovered from his spinal injury which forced him to return home, could be the trump card for the Lions as they bid to become the first team from Singapore to win the FA Cup.
It was back in 1994 when Singapore last featured in a Cup Final – and it was none other than the Fandi featured Lions who thumped Pahang 4-0 to lift the prestigious Malaysia Cup to complete a grand double having also won the League the same year.
The euphoria of reaching a Cup Final is building up in the republic with football fans grabbing the tickets for the final. The FA Cup final is a hot topic on both sides of the causeway.
Although it will be played in the Klang Valley thousands of Kelantan and Singapore fans will be making their way to Bukit Jalil.
Fandi has already sought the release of his SEA Games players – midfielders Christopher van Huizen and Faris Ramli and defender Shakir Hamzah – all of whom missed the return-leg in Kuala Terengganu as they were with the SEA Games team on a training-cum-playing tour of Japan.
Safuwan is an added boost. He is the first Singaporean to have scored a goal in the A-League and the Australian stint stands in good stead for the player and the Lions team.
“He (Safuwan) did not play in any league matches but he played in the FA Cup semi-finals against Terengganu. He is an asset and having him in the team gives me more options,” said Fandi from Singapore.
Fandi is wary of Kelantan, especially since the Red Warriors have been a “transformed side” since Azraai Khor Abdullah took over as the chief coach from Dutchman George Boateng in April.
“Kelantan bring wealth of Cup Final experience with them. They have played in five FA Cup finals and won twice…this speaks of the Kelantan team,” added Fandi.
Unlike Malaysian teams, Lions have no foreign players.
For the record Lions XII won the Super League title in 2013.