Fandi may play Safuwan as forward

Fandi may play Safuwan as forward
Safuwan Baharudin (front) has expressed a preference for playing as a forward but says he will play where Fandi wants him to. Today File Photo
But he remains wary as move will leave a gaping hole in LionsXII defence
Published: 4:01 AM, February 11, 2014

SINGAPORE — The attacking instincts of Safuwan Baharudin, which have been one of the highlights for the LionsXII this season, could see the centre-back deployed up front on a more regular basis.

Speaking ahead of this Saturday’s Malaysian Super League (MSL) clash against Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) FA, LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad revealed that he could use the 1.82m-tall defender in a more offensive role, particularly with the LionsXII scoring only four times in four league outings so far this season.

However, moving Safuwan forward could cause a defensive headache, admitted the former Singapore star.

“It’s something which I have always considered. But then, what about the heart of our defence? Safuwan has the ability to score goals. I can sense it in him. He has the height and the strength too,” said Fandi.

But he knows their profligacy in front of goal is becoming a problem that must be rectified if the LionsXII are to start climbing the league standings, where they currently sit at ninth out of 12 teams.

Safuwan’s attacking ability was evident in the MSL clash against Johor Darul Takzim on Jan 28, when Fandi’s decision to move him up front paid dividends, with the visitors coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at the Larkin Stadium.

He also scored from a free-kick in their 2-1 defeat to Pahang in the Malaysian FA Cup two weeks ago.

The current first-choice strike pairing of Khairul Amri and Sufian Anuar, with either Faris Ramli or Gabriel Quak providing the width from the flanks, has not yet yielded the desired results. Of the LionsXII’s four goals in the league this season, two have come from Amri, with defender Shakir Hamzah and midfielder Hafiz Sujad, who has operated as an auxiliary defender this season, accounting for one each.

“We could have gotten more goals if only we were sharper. But that’s the story of the LionsXII’s finishing. We dominated, we created, particularly in the match against Terengganu on Saturday, but we cannot find the opponents’ net,” said Fandi.

“I guess scoring goals for a striker is all about instinct and being there at the right time and right place. But we cannot afford not to put away the chances we create. It will come back to haunt us.”

Fandi remains undecided on whether to use Safuwan up front against ATM FA at the Selayang Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. But 22-year-old Safuwan insists he is prepared to play anywhere Fandi requires him to, even though he has said he prefers to play as a forward.

“I’ve got no issues as to where I play,” he said. “If he thinks I should stay in the heart of the defence, it’s fine too. I have been a striker before when I was playing for the ITE (Institute of Technical Education) for two years.”