Lions in Malaysia: Hariss is Lions debutant Mahler’s hero; Safuwan revives partnership with Baihakki 

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

FOX Sports Asia brings you a weekly watch on what the stars of Singapore football Shahdan Sulaiman, Faris Ramli, Safuwan Baharudin and Hariss Harun are up to both on and off the pitch in Malaysia.

Shahdan Sulaiman – Melaka United

Photos sourced from FAS Facebook & Shahdan Instagram

With the Malaysia Cup on a break last week, Melaka United’s Shahdan Sulaiman was released for international duties with Singapore for their friendly fixtures.

The 30-year-old industrious midfielder was absent from Lions coach Fandi Ahmad’s starting XI against Mauritius and played no part in the 1-1 draw last Friday.

But Shahdan returned last night to play the first half before making way for veteran forward Shahril Ishak as Singapore defeated Fiji 2-0 to hand Fandi, who was just appointed in May, his first win!

Playmaker Shahdan, who was replacing Yasir Hanapi as the Lions’ no. 10, was off the pace against the Fijians despite playing some nice through passes in his 45 minutes cameo. The Melaka United no. 16 will need to produce a better display if he hopes to secure his spot in Fandi’s AFF Suzuki Cup squad.

Before facing Mongolia and Cambodia in their October international friendlies, 2012 Suzuki Cup winner Shahdan will have a small taste of their upcoming Group B clash with the Philippines.

Navigating their final Malaysia Cup tie against Group B leaders Felda United FC, Sang Kancil‘s Shahdan will be rubbing his hands in anticipation as he lines up opposite Filipino international Iain Ramsay!

Faris Ramli – PKNS FC

Photos sourced from FAS Facebook & Faris Instagram

Following the birth of his first kid, PKNS FC winger Faris Ramli was forced to withdraw from the Singapore national squad due to injury.

Nonetheless, the 26-year-old, who was replaced by Khairul Nizam, still stuck around with his national team; electing to continue his treatment with the medical staff as he looks to make a swift return to the football pitch.

In the meantime, PKNS will be praying that Faris makes a speedy recovery soon with the Malaysia Cup group stage coming to a close. The Red Ants have already qualified for the quarter-finals and are expected to make light work of bottom side PDRM FA this Saturday.

And when the new father wasn’t busy with footballing matters, Faris was keeping himself occupied by bringing his baby boy around for visitation with family and friends. Notable visitors include a certain Irfan Fandi – Faris’ national team roomie!

The PKNS no. 30, who just turned 26 two weeks ago, also got an unexpected belated birthday surprise as he received received the last of his presents this week.

Safuwan Baharudin – Pahang FA

Photos sourced from FAS Facebook & Safuwan Instagram

If things go according to Fandi’s plan, then Singapore football fans will have a chance to witness the renewal of the centre-back partnership between Safuwan Baharudin with Baihakki Khaizan.

The Lions defensive pairing, which was a crucial reason behind their 2012 Suzuki Cup title win, got a run out during their 1-1 draw against Mauritius when old guard Baihakki came on in the 58th minute to replace the injured Irfan Fandi and picked up where he left things off with long-time partner Safuwan.

Versatile Safuwan, who can also play in midfield and attack, tried to show the other dimensions to his football game when he tried his luck with a half-volley in the 21st minute.

Mauritius had opened the scoring with former Etoile FC striker Jonathan as early as the fourth minute, but an inspired Shahril Ishak laid off for fellow forward Ikhsan Fandi to level the proceedings and a share of the points.

Lions tamer Fandi, who had nothing but praise for 26-year-old Safuwan following the draw, said “When I came back (to take the National Team), I spoke to him also and told him this is his best position (centre-back) and he will always be man of the match if he plays there.”

The Singapore coach opted not to risk the defender, who is carrying a knock, for Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Fiji as the Pahang FA player prepares to wrap up their Malaysia Cup group phase against Group D leaders Sabah FA.

Hariss Harun – Johor Darul Ta’zim FC

Photos sourced from FAS Facebook

Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun led by example at the Bishan Stadium against Fiji.

Captain Hariss netted from a thumping header thanks to Zulfahmi Arifin’s 12th-minute corner to put the Lions one-nil up. The hosts did not let up the pressure and added a second moments later when Ikhsan Fandi fired a low shot home after being released by Gabriel Quak.

With the 2-0 win in the bag, Hariss made way for debutant Ho Wai Loon, the Warriors FC midfielder who has been waiting over year for his Lions’ bow, in the 62nd minute. The Lions no. 14 played the full 90 minutes last Friday in the draw with Mauritius.

27-year-old Hariss, whose storied footballing career makes him the perfect role model, is cited as the hero of another one of Singapore’s debutants, Young Lions midfielder Jacob Mahler.

The 18-year-old looks set to make good on his promise to emulate Hariss after putting in a hard shift shielding the back four against the Fiji attack. Six-time Malaysia Super League title winner Hariss will have opportunities to mentor Mahler with two more friendlies slated for October against Mongolia and Cambodia.

But prior to that, the 2012 Suzuki Cup winner will be focused solely on helping his club Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) FC book their Malaysia Cup quarter-finals place.

Last year’s winners are third in Group C and trail leaders MISC-MIFA and second-placed Kedah FA by two points. The Southern Tigers, with Hariss anchoring the midfield, will need to come away with a victory against MISC-MIFA and hope that the Red Eagles lose to bottom-of-the-group Kelantan FA in order to keep their cup dreams alive!


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