Safuwan bruised in "war" with Melbourne Victory
MELBOURNE VICTORY 3
(Besart Berisha 10, Kosta Barbarouses 53, Fahid Ben Khalfallah 62)
MELBOURNE CITY 0
The two long scars running down his right shin told the whole story.
It was a debut that will long linger in his memory.
On-loan Melbourne City defender Safuwan Baharudin described yesterday's Melbourne Derby against Victory like "fighting in a war".
The 23-year-old became the first Singaporean to play in the A-League when he was handed an unexpected start by City coach John van't Schip, after regular defensive midfielder Erik Paartalu was ruled out because of a calf injury.
Safuwan, who joined the Australian club on a three-month loan last week, lined up alongside the likes of former Chelsea star Damien Duff, ex-Leicester City defender Patrick Kisnorbo and West Brom attacker Robert Koren, before 40,042 fans at Victory's Etihad Stadium.
Victory won 3-0 through goals from former Hamburg striker Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and former Tunisia winger Fahid Ben Khalfallah.
Safuwan had been involved in many clashes with Causeway rivals Malaysia over the years but yesterday's game was of a different level and intensity.
"It was like fighting in a war," Safuwan told The New Paper after the match. "Things were heating up even when we were in the tunnel.
"My teammate Connor (Chapman) got into a staring match with Berisha and it was no surprise that they got into an argument later in the match.
"It was crazily intense. It was as though I was playing in a Manchester Derby between United and City."
On the two long scars on his right shin, the lanky defender said with a wry smile: "One of their players got me. I went in to slide the ball and, when I was down on the ground, he stamped on my leg."
With Paartalu injured, Safuwan had been mentally prepared that he would make City's first 11 against Victory.
But he was still "shocked" to be handed his debut, as there were other options available to van't Schip.
Safuwan, who feels his best position is at centre back but has been deployed in midfield by both country and parent club LionsXII, started the match well and made five successful passes in the early exchanges.
But, in the 10th minute, City captain Patrick Kisnorbo misplaced a pass meant for the Singaporean, and Victory scored from the counter-attack.
While he was not to blame, Safuwan said he was shaken by the early goal and endured some nervy moments soon after, giving the ball away a few times.
But he soon settled back into his regular game.
"When you are new to a team and a mistake happens, of course it shakes you up a bit because suddenly, you're under pressure," said Safuwan.
"But, thankfully, I managed to compose myself soon after the goal."
In the second half, Safuwan moved into a more advanced midfield position as City pushed for the equaliser, but Victory scored their second goal just seven minutes after the break.
On 59 minutes, van't Schip replaced Safuwan with Australia international striker Josh Kennedy, but it was in vain as their city rivals scored their third goal just three minutes after the Singaporean left the pitch.
Safuwan had only two sights at goal - a header that trickled wide and a shot from distance which was too central and lacked power.
Now he has his first taste of A-League action, he is hungry for more.
"I didn't expect to last that long, but I know I gave my 100 per cent and didn't disappoint anyone," said Safuwan.
"Now I've got my debut out of the way, I want more. Hopefully, I can gradually progress from 60 minutes of football to the full 90 minutes."
- MELBOURNE VICTORY: Nathan Coe, Jason Geria (Daniel Georgievski 83), Adrian Leijer, Nicholas Ansell, Scot Galloway, Carl Valeri, Leigh Broxham, Guilherme Finkler, Kosta Barbarouses, Besart Berisha (Andrew Nabout 78), Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Archie Thompson 69)
- MELBOURNE CITY: Andrew Redmayne, Jason Hoffman, Connor Chapman, Patrick Kisnorbo, Jack Clisby (Massimo Murdocca 76), Safuwan Baharudin (Josh Kennedy 59), Jacob Melling, Aaron Mooy, Damien Duff, Robert Koren, Iain Ramsay (David Williams 30)
Coach: Safuwan can make big steps forward
His A-League debut ended in defeat, but defender Safuwan Baharudin did enough to impress his coach at Melbourne City.
The 23-year-old was handed an unexpected start in the local derby with Melbourne Victory by coach John van't Schip, after injury to regular defensive midfielder Erik Paartalu.
Safuwan put in a tireless shift but was powerless to prevent City from trailing Victory 2-0, before he made way for Josh Kennedy on 59 minutes.
After the game which they lost 3-0, van't Schip described his team's performance as "flat" and the goals they conceded as "very cheap".
When asked about Safuwan's performance, the Dutchman told The New Paper: "Safuwan is a very positive player.
"He has to get used, first of all, to his teammates and also playing in the A-League.
"But he's a player that we rate highly and, from what we saw, I think he can still make big steps forward. That's something we have to take day by day.
"Looking at him today, there's always room for improvement but he challenged, he was not afraid to coach, he wanted to have the ball, he was strong in the air defensively and also when we went forward.
"We certainly did not lose the game because Safuwan was not playing well. We were just not at the races."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ
- Total passes: 27 (10 in defensive half, 17 in attacking half)
- Pass accuracy: 81%
- Challenges: 12 (won 5, lost 7)
- Aerial duels: 5 (won 3, lost 2).
- Fouls: 3
- Shots: 2 (1 off target)