Malaysia FA Cup hero Safuwan Baharudin revels in Singapore banter
Despite being reminded of the fierce Singapore-Malaysia sporting rivalry, former LionsXII utility Safuwan Baharudin is making a big impression on, and off the pitch, in his first season with Malaysia Super League (MSL) club, PDRM FA.
The Singapore international set up his team's first goal and scored the second as the Malaysian police side upset local rivals Selangor, 2-1, in the Malaysia FA Cup third round on Friday night.
The result eliminates the 2015 Malaysia Cup champions who had made an unbeaten start to the 2016 season in all competitions. PDRM will now play Malaysia Super League (MSL) champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) in the quarterfinals over two legs, starting on March 18.
"We still like to jest about our rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia, but it's great to have a player like Safuwan, who is exceptional in the air," said PDRM teammate K. Reuben.
"He helps to defend and also a good target man when you need him in attack. Highly versatile."
After Safuwan provided the assist for defender Ahmad Nizam Rodzi in PDRM's first goal in the 39th minute, he made it 2-0 just before the hour with a trademark header. Liberian striker Patrick Wleh provided a consolation strike for Selangor in the 86th minute.
After a goal-laden preseason, Safuwan has yet to score in four games in the MSL. But Reuben predicts that he'll break the drought soon, operating in a box-to-box midfielder role.
"He puts himself in a position to score," former Malaysia fullback Reuben said. "He's always at the right place at the right time."
The Cops are eighth in the 12-team MSL standings, but only five points off top spot. Their next MSL match is at home to JDT on March 13.
In other FA Cup ties this weekend, Pahang's nightmare start to the 2016 season worsened with a 1-0 home loss to second tier Sime Darby at the Darul Makmur Stadium.
Felda United suffered their second defeat in the space of four days, losing 3-2 at PKNS FC.
Sabah won the bottom of the Premier League clash 2-1 over ATM FA while in-form Kuala Lumpur ensured that the second tier will provide four of the last eight thanks to a 2-0 win at Perlis.
JDT defeated Negeri Sembilan 4-1 while Kedah needed penalties to overcome Kelantan after extra-time finished 1-1.
In other quarterfinal ties, Sabah will play Kedah, Sime Darby will face PKNS and Perak are pitted against Kuala Lumpur.