Safuwan holds his own in friendly for Melbourne City

He went head to head twice with three-time Serie A champion and former Juventus hitman Mirko Vucinic, and Singapore defender Safuwan Baharudin won both aerial duels.

It would not be a stretch to say the LionsXII centre back did not look out of place when he turned out for A-League side Melbourne City in Sunday's friendly against Al Jazira, despite the 2-0 defeat in Abu Dhabi.

It is understood the 23-year-old Singapore star is currently on trial with the Australian side until next Monday.

Safuwan, wearing the No. 2 jersey, was included in the starting line-up for the friendly at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and partnered Melbourne City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo in the heart of the defence.

While Kisnorbo had a game to forget, giving away a penalty in the second minute before conceding an own goal in the 72nd minute, Safuwan had a decent outing despite flying in to join the team only last Wednesday.

The 1.81-metre tall defender was crisp with his passing and was tidy at the back, although Al Jazira playmaker Manuel Lanzini did catch him out with a clever 41st-minute through-ball played between Safuwan and Kisnorbo for Hassan Ameen, who was then booked for a dive in the box.

Safuwan was eventually replaced by Connor Chapman in the 68th minute.

Melbourne City and their coach John van't Schip could not be reached yesterday, and Safuwan declined comment.


But the club's match report read: "Melbourne City named a strong starting line-up for the match, with Erik Paartalu a notable omission, while Singaporean defender Muhammad Safuwan bin Baharudin started in defence for City.

"Safuwan is attending the club's training camp in Abu Dhabi... as part of a development opportunity arranged with the Singaporean Football Association."

In the match report, van't Schip said: "I think we played a decent first half.

"We had decent chances and played good football but, in the second half, we dropped off a level and they gained a level, so the result was 2-0.

"We have been here only two days and we always knew it was going to be hard with the jet-lag.

"You could see in the second half that the quality of Al Jazira was high and we dropped a level physically with the trip, but I was happy with the performance and the players who played 90 minutes."

Melbourne City, who finished bottom last season, are now sixth out of 10 teams in the A-League, which is on a break for this month's Asian Cup Finals in Australia.

They have four imports - former Chelsea winger Damien Duff, former West Brom midfielder Robert Koren, Argentine midfielder Jonatan Germano and Dutch defender Rob Wielaert.

This means the club have an extra foreign player spot to fill and Safuwan could benefit as the squad are light on defenders, with just Kisnorbo, Wielaert and Chapman being the other natural defenders.

The team play a second friendly on Sunday before returning to Australia.

In response to TNP's queries, the FAS, who helped arrange the stint for Safuwan, said: "As part of FAS' constant efforts to secure overseas training stints for our players to aid their long-term development, Safuwan is currently attending a training camp with A-League side Melbourne City in Abu Dhabi.

"This is a good opportunity for Safuwan to learn from other top professionals in the region, and we look forward to receiving feedback from Melbourne City's coaches on his stint."

This article was first published on January 13, 2015.
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