Safuwan's poor form a worry for Lions
Frayed, fatigued, now concussed, he's eager for a break before Suzuki Cup
There was a twist, a shout and Safuwan Baharudin fell to the ground in pain, but referee Hadimin Shahbuddin was unconvinced, as were several in the stands at the Bishan Stadium.
Safuwan has been a mainstay in the national team since he was a scrawny 18-year-old stepping into Radojko Avramovic's Lions side and he has played with distinction right through the spine of the Lions since then.
Along with midfield star Hariss Harun and goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, he is regarded as crucial to any hopes the team has of doing well at the upcoming Suzuki Cup.
But the 25-year-old has not quite been the same.
Yesterday in the Lions' 1-0 win over Cambodia, this time playing in an attacking midfielder, uncharacteristically gave the ball away cheaply on two occasions, failed to ignite in the attacking third, and only had a single header - a weak one - on target.
That was as much as he managed before he was carried off on a stretcher after a clash of heads with Cambodia's Soeuy Visal.
Suffering from a concussion, Safuwan confessed later to not being able to remember any of the 45 minutes that he played last night, and that is perhaps better for him, as he attempts to reboot before the Lions fly out to Manila tomorrow.
"In the build up to today's game, I thought I wasn't playing badly, I thought I contributed okay to the team, but I don't know if I'm happy with myself - it's 50-50 really," he told The New Paper.
"I don't feel fresh: besides the two games that I was suspended for, I played in every single game for my club," added Safuwan, who plays as a forward for Malaysian Super League (MSL) side PDRM.
"I don't feel 100 per cent fit, going into this game, and maybe it's fatigue. We've been travelling for the past two weeks, with minimal resting time, but we've got two days off before we fly, and it's important that we get time to rest the body and rest the mind."
Before he left the now-defunct LionsXII side - a Singapore team that played in the MSL between 2012 and 2015 - to join PDRM, he was a key figure wherever he played for the team and was such threat in set-pieces.
It eventually became a simple straight-forward strategy to put the ball near Safuwan, and he would at least test the opposition goalkeeper.
Singapore is depending on that version of Safuwan, but it has hardly been successful for the Lions in recent times, at least not in the six winless matches - of which five were losses - prior to last night.
"Confidence-wise we're not doing great, we've not been scoring goals and this is the only game that we can test our attacking play.
"We've not scored from set-plays, and more worryingly, we haven't scored from open play either," he said.
Some argue that Safuwan is ineffective as a forward, but he is willing to serve wherever he is needed for the Lions.
"I think this attacking role fits me, but people might say no because we're not winning games, but the coach knows what's the best for the team, and why these players are playing in these positions," he said.
"But whatever position I play in, I will give 100 per cent."
In the end, Safuwan was simply content with the win.
"I can't remember the first half, but I'm feeling okay," he said.
"We won, and hopefully this game helps us."