Unwell Safuwan rewarded with 'crucial' equaliser for battling on

The LionsXII centreback got the all-important leveler in their 1-1 draw against Johor Darul Takzim despite feeling nauseous at half-time, as the leaders inched closer to the title

Safuwan Baharudin’s equaliser against Johor Darul Takzim on Saturday night was his third goal of the season for the LionsXII, as he lashed home from close range in the 83rd minute to raise the roof and help the Malaysian Super League (MSL) leaders to a 1-1 draw.

However, unknown to many, the defender had chosen to battle on despite not feeling well during the crunch match against their opponents, who are in second place.

The 21-year-old was attended to by the team’s physio and the medical staff behind the LionsXII goal after feeling nauseous prior to the start of the second half. 

“I am not too sure what had happened but I felt something was wrong during the first half, like feeling a headache, and I had also vomited during the halftime break," Safuwan recalled.

“I know my body well and [there was] no harm in continuing to play. I have played in many crucial matches before and have experienced some sort of difficulties in some of those matches too.” 

Recalling the seconds in the lead up to his goal, Safuwan reckons it boiled down to pure luck and feels that it was just what his team needed to keep one hand on the MSL title.

“I thought the ball was going out but when I took a look again, I saw Faritz [Hameed] heading the ball towards goal, and the goalkeeper punched the ball and it got to me," he said.

“I was at the right place at the right time. The goal was not only important to me but also the team.

“For me it was another goal that I will remember for the rest of my life, as it is a crucial goal and I hope I will continue scoring.

“I do not want to put pressure but the four-point lead [over Darul Takzim] is very good and if we can get a win there [away to Perak], we will come back feeling confident about it [the potential title-winning match] against Felda.” 

The central defender, along with the three substitutes, also earned the praise of LionsXII coach V. Sundramoorthy after the match for their performances.

“Safuwan has always been excellent and he never stops fighting hard in the game, and he can score goals," he effused.

“Shafiq [Ghani] was great with his passes and his last pass to [Khairul] Nizam was a good one and he [Nizam] just needed to put a finishing touch to it."

Sundram then moved on to Faris Ramli, who was arguably the most energetic player on the field after coming on in place of Gabriel Quak five minutes before half time.

“Faris is a player with lots of confidence; whenever he has the ball, he likes to take on the player and not many players in Singapore do that nowadays," he observed.

With three games to go in the MSL, the LionsXII are firmly in the driving seat and two more wins will secure the title, regardless of other results.

LionsXII remaining MSL fixtures 

June 25 – vs Perak FA – Away

July 2 – vs Felda United – Home

July 6 – vs Kelantan FA – Away