Thursday, July 21, 2011

Buildup to Causeway Derby on 23 Jul: Malaysia's Safee longs for 1st goal against Lions - ST (21Jul)

'Bennett is a very intelligent player and he reads the game well.'
SAFEE SALI, Malaysia striker, on being a marked man of the Singapore defender

HE HAS scored 13 goals in 29 games for Malaysia since his debut in 2006, but top striker Safee Sali has so far failed to find the net against bitter rivals Singapore in three friendly meetings.

And the 27-year-old, whose reputation is fast-growing within the region, is planning to erase this blot on his CV come Saturday, when the Tigers meet the Lions in the second round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers - his first competitive outing against the Republic.

'Yes, I've scored against Singapore at the Under-23 level (in the Merdeka Cup in 2007), but never in a full international or a friendly,' Safee told The Straits Times in a phone interview yesterday.

'If I score on Saturday, good. It will be even better if we win.'

The stocky 1.70m forward will first need to overcome veteran centre-back Daniel Bennett, 33, who has vowed to give Safee a tough time.

But having netted a brace in Saturday's 3-6 friendly loss to English club Liverpool on his comeback from injury, the Pelita Jaya hitman is confident that he can get the better of the Singapore defence.

Said Safee: 'Bennett is a very intelligent player and he reads the game well. I'm getting close to my full fitness and that will be important.'

Safee, along with skipper and midfield general Safiq Rahim, can expect to be marked men when they face their long-time adversaries in front of a sell-out 6,000 crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

But Safiq, a key threat for Malaysia with his deadly free kicks, is banking on his teammates to rise to the occasion.

Said the 24-year-old: 'Everybody has their own weaknesses and strengths, I'm sure the rest of the team will have something extra to give on Saturday.'

Tigers coach K. Rajagobal's young charges are due to arrive this morning and will have two days to get used to the artificial pitch at Jalan Besar.


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