LionsXII Report Card: Defence

The season is over for the Malaysian Super League champions and Goal Singapore gives our verdict on how the players have performed, starting with the goalkeeper and defenders
Izwan Mahbud

The Singapore number one was a big reason for the measly 15 goals the LionsXII conceded in 22 league games. With superb shot-stopping skills and excellent reflexes, Izwan has taken spectators' breaths away on more than one occasion this season with his saves. Has a booming goal-kick on him as well, which is helpful in launching counter-attacks. The 23-year-old even ventured up a few times to take attacking free-kicks, although he failed to score any of them. Overall a superb season for the reliable custodian.

Faritz Hameed

The right-back firmly established himself as first-choice during the season, impressing many with his lung-bursting overlapping runs from the back and crossing. Strong in the air and no slouch on the ground, it was arguably Faritz's breakthrough year as he played himself into national team coach Bernd Stange's reckoning. He can still improve in terms of his positioning sense, but by and large this has been a good year for Faritz.

Baihakki Khaizan

The tall centre-back has largely been in dominant form, his height lending an aerial dominance at the back against opponents. Capable of pulling all last-ditch tackles, but rarely needs to do so as his keen positional sense often sees him read the danger well in advance. Possesses a classy demeanour that bears resemblance to Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and is comfortable with the ball at his feet, as shown by his forays out of defence and into the opposition half during games. A slight blemish is his propensity for yellow cards, which has seen him suspended all too often this season. Can be vulnerable against pacy strikers as well.

Safuwan Baharudin

The young centre-back has come on leaps and bounds this year as he continues to establish himself as one of the finest defenders in the region. Tall and imposing, Safuwan has at times been a one-man repelling force, especially when Baihakki was serving suspensions. A battler who soldiers on in spite of all adversity. His aerial dominance has also been a useful asset at set-pieces, while his classy lobbed goal against Perak FA in the Malaysia Cup group stage showcased a never-before-seen finishing ability. If Safuwan keeps on improving, he has the potential to be one of the best defenders Singapore has ever seen.

Shakir Hamzah

For a centre-back shunted out to the left, Shakir has done remarkably well in his new position. Like Faritz, he is always eager to support his winger when the LionsXII go on the attack, and is at ease with the ball on either foot. Never shirks a tackle and can be a threat at set-pieces, even if he only netted once during the season. However, he can be quite rash at times and a suspension after going absent without official leave from National Service marred his campaign.

Madhu Mohana

The 22-year-old hardly featured for the team this season partly due to Faritz's fine form as well as due to National Service commitments, but Madhu has done well whenever he's been called upon. While he may not have the pace to pose much of a threat on the attack, Madhu makes up for it with his uncompromising attitude when defending. Times his challenges well and works his socks off. Scored a memorable winning header against ATM FA in their 1-0 first leg victory in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals, although it wasn't enough to see them through ultimately.

Irwan Shah

The full-back featured regularly enough on both sides of the defence this season, but it was not his most memorable campaign. While his eagerness to join the attack his commendable, Irwan's inexperience at the back showed on occasion as opposing wingers caught him out. At 24, he still has some time on his side and with this season's experience under his belt, Irwan should be a much better player next year.