Safuwan: We need to stop conceding goals

LionsXII vice-captain believes a lack of clean sheets is marring his side’s season so far.

The LionsXII finally returned to winning ways on Saturday night as they clinched a 2-1 win over the visiting Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) FA at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The defending Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions were up by two goals at half time, but made life difficult for themselves towards the last 15 minutes after allowing ATM captain Rezal Zambery Yahya the space and time to sneak through and fire past Izwan Mahbud from inside the box.

Fortunately for the Singaporeans, they hung on to clinch the much-needed three points.

Speaking to FourFourTwo after the game, LionsXII stand-in captain Safuwan Baharudin was a relieved man.

“It was a long-awaited win,” he said.

“Credit to the boys, we managed to bounce back after three straight defeats.

“I couldn’t ask for more. If we were to lose this, the morale will be going down and down.

“So this is a good morale-booster for the remaining five matches and we’re hoping to keep the momentum going.”

The last time out against Johor Darul Ta’zim, the LionsXII managed to squander a two-goal lead and ended up losing the game.

Safuwan was glad that history did not repeat itself on Saturday night.

“When you have a two-goal cushion, the nightmare of that last game will come into factor,” he shared.

“When ATM scored, we were feeling down and my ‘inside’ was off. They were going up for another goal and could have easily ended up with a draw.

“It’s important for us to learn from this; we need to learn how to keep a two-goal cushion and not to concede any more goals.”

Clean sheets have come at a premium for the LionsXII this season.

After nine shutouts en route to lifting the title last season, they have only collected three thus far.

Having not kept any in their last six games as well, Safuwan believes that is the priority going into the final stretch of the season.

“We have not gotten a clean sheet for so long,” he lamented.

“For the last two seasons, we have been superb at the back. But now we’re prone to conceding goals in every game.

“It’s not good, so at the end of the day we definitely have to work on our defence.”

With this victory, the LionsXII are now five points adrift of the top three.

For now, the 22-year-old is keeping his fingers crossed that his side can still achieve the top-three target set out by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) before the season started.

“I saw the remaining matches tonight,” he said.

“Terengganu beat Pahang 4-1 and T-Team beat Kelantan 1-0... I’m hoping for a miracle now.

“We’re still aiming for the top three and I think we’ve done well in the past two to three games.

“If we are to finish in the top five, the pool standings for the Malaysia Cup will be much easier for us.

"If we finish in the bottom five, we’ll end up fighting with the top teams in the group stage.” 

 The MSL will now take a two-week break before resuming action.

The LionsXII’s next game will see them take on Kelantan FA in Kota Bahru, Malaysia on Tuesday, 10 June but Safuwan will miss it through suspension.