Team Singapore

Baihakki hungry for a game

It was as if he had never left.

Commanding in practice matches, comical after training, towering centre back Baihakki Khaizan has been his usual self since he rejoined the LionsXII after spending nearly five months with Johor Darul Ta'zim.

The Malaysian team decided to de-register the 30-year-old Singapore international last week, paving the way for him to turn out for the side he won the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title with last season.

Tonight, all eyes will be on Baihakki (left) as he makes his first appearance as a LionsXII player this season.

Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, full backs Faritz Abdul Hameed and Shakir Hamzah will be familiar colleagues in defence, but he will not find Safuwan Baharudin as his centre-back sidekick.

Instead, he will partner Afiq Yunos for the first time, as the LionsXII look to record their fourth clean sheet this season.

"It feels good to be back, and I want to continue where I left off," Baihakki told The New Paper yesterday.

"I feel good after a week of training together and playing in the 5-1 friendly win over Courts Young Lions.

"Afiq is a nice guy, but a no-nonsense player. He has got the size and reads the game well.

"He may have started playing in the MSL only this season, but he knows where he wants to be and what he has to do to get better, and I will guide him."

Afiq's inclusion means Safuwan will play in midfield, a tactic that paid dividends when he scored one goal and provided an assist in the Young Lions friendly.

The 22-year-old Safuwan, who already has four league goals this season, insists he can be successful in his new role, where he is expected to track back, link the defence and attack, and provide ammunition for strikers like Khairul Amri.

Said Safuwan: "There's nothing to worry about. I've played in this position before. 

"I know what I have to do and what I can do. There is no reason why it can't work.

"Having Baihakki back is a big boost, and Afiq is a reliable centre back as well.

"It is up to the coach to plan the tactics and I'm just as happy and comfortable helping out with the attack."

DAVID LEE