Defender makes history by becoming first Singaporean to score in A-League

Defender makes history by becoming first Singaporean to score in A-League
HERO: Safuwan Baharudin (near right) is the toast of the Melbourne City fans.

With one swing of his right leg, Safuwan Baharudin created history.

The 23-year-old became the first Singaporean footballer to score in the A-League, when he slammed home a 52nd-minute goal for Melbourne City against A-League title-hopefuls Adelaide United at City's AAMI Park home ground yesterday.

Safuwan, who joined City on a three-month loan from the LionsXII last month, was perfectly placed at the back post to thump home an equaliser from a corner-kick, after Adelaide had taken a first-half lead through Pablo Sanchez.

Safuwan's goal rejuvenated his side, and they scored a second through striker Josh Kennedy three minutes later.

Substitute Iain Ramsay made sure of the three points from close range in the 87th minute.

Safuwan was still pinching himself when The New Paper contacted him after the match.

"As the ball came to me at the back post, the only thought I had was to get good contact on the ball," he said.

"The moment I got my boot on it, I knew it would go in because the timing was good and I was well balanced... Everything was perfect.

"I don't remember much after that except that I was so happy, because I badly wanted a first goal for City, and to do it in my first home start was a dream come true." Safuwan's versatility shone through once again yesterday.

His natural position is at centre back, but he has played at fullback, in midfield and even up front in the last 18 months for both club and country.

After making his City debut in midfield in a 3-0 away defeat by local-rivals Melbourne Victory on Feb 7, Safuwan played the whole of City's goalless draw away at New Zealand side Wellington Phoenix on Feb 14, in the right-back position.

He was an unused substitute when City drew 0-0 with A-League leaders Perth Glory last weekend, but earned a recall to the starting 11 against Adelaide in a right wingback berth, as City coach John van't Schip opted for a three-man defence.

Things went pear-shaped for the home side, though, when Spanish striker Sanchez found space in the 32nd minute to fire Adelaide in front.

In a bid to turn the game around, van't Schip tinkered with his team at the break and moved Safuwan to the left side of a four-man defence for the second 45 minutes.

MASTERSTROKE

What a masterstroke it turned out to be.

Just seven minutes after the restart, Safuwan found himself unmarked to power the ball home after Adelaide failed to clear their lines.

Three minutes later, Kennedy rose high to connect with former West Brom playmaker Robert Koren's pin-point cross and plant a bullet header into goal.

Safuwan came close to scoring again in the 64th minute when the ball again fell to him at the back post from a corner-kick, but it was behind him and his acrobatic improvised backheel sailed over the bar.

Ramsay wrapped up the win with a tap-in three minutes before the end, after good work by David Williams and Massimo Murdocca.

Safuwan had such a barnstorming performance that the Melbourne City website put him up as one of the three candidates for their Man-of-the-Match award, the other two being Australia-capped duo Kennedy and Aaron Mooy.

Safuwan dedicated his goal to his wife, Alia Qistina, and parents - father Baharudin Abdul Ghani and mother Suria Haniffa - who arrived in Melbourne on Thursday and will spend the weekend with him Down Under.

"This goal is for them," he said. "It hasn't been easy here, but my wife has been encouraging me from Day One.

"And having my parents here with me makes everything feel better."

SAFUWAN'S STATS

- Total passes: 25 (9 in defensive half, 16 in attacking half)

- Pass accuracy: 65 per cent

- Tackles: 3 (won 3)

- Aerial duels: 6 (won 5, lost 2)

- Fouls: 3

- Shots: 2 (1 off target)

 


This article was first published on February 28, 2015.
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