Port overcame Nakhon Ratchasima 2-0 on Sunday to extend their pre-season winning streak to three games. Port endured a tough first half, suffering numerous injury scares, but came back strongly in the second half to win the game with two goals from a red-hot Maranhao.
Port lined up with Rattanai (17) in goal and a back four of Rochela (22), Dolah (40), Meechok (20) and Suchon (11). Piyachat (28) was given a start alongside Siwakorn (16) in central midfield, with Suarez (4) once again playing a more advanced role just behind striker Kaluderovic (10). Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) took their usual places on the wings.
Korat started brightly, with Ghanaian international forward Dominic Adiyiah (10) causing Port all sorts of problems with his pace and skill. Port’s defence held firm, but the midfield was caught out a few times trying to do too much with the ball and losing possession in dangerous areas.
Korat couldn’t find a way through, with Rochela and Dolah martialling a strong back line, but after 9 minutes of sustained pressure Port suffered a blow potentially much more serious than conceding a goal. Midfield maestro Siwakorn picked up a nasty-looking injury to his right leg and was piggy-backed off the pitch, unable to even limp. Young midfielder Tatchanon (27) came on in his place. Port will be hoping the injury isn’t as serious as it looked, as Siwakorn is set to play a key role in Port’s starting XI this season.
Just 10 minutes later, disaster seemed to have struck again. Rochela went for a brave header just as Adiyiah was attempting a bicycle kick, but beating Adiyiah to the ball came at the price of taking a brutal boot full to the face. Rochela seemed to be out cold for a few moments, but with the help of both the Port and Korat physios, he regained consciousness and walked gingerly off the pitch, being replaced by Todsapol (6). Port’s captain should be back to full fitness for the opening game of the season, but he will be carrying a battle scar with him when he meets The Sandpit on Monday for our very first exclusive interview!
Port still weren’t done with injuries yet, though. Both Meechok and Kaluderovic were replaced before half time, although neither looked to be particularly serious. Nitipong (34) came on for Meechok at right back, while Maranhao (29) replaced Kaluderovic up front.
The one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing first half was goalkeeper Rattanai. The youngster made some good saves, claimed a couple of tricky crosses and looked more comfortable with the ball at his feet than he did last season.
Port held out to go in 0-0 at half time, but they probably deserved to be a goal or two down against an impressive-looking Korat.
The second half brought with it another round of substitutions, and the tide began to turn in Port’s favour. Pakorn was inches away from the top corner with a sweetly-struck free kick, and Ekkapoom (8), who has had a bright pre-season, once again looked lively after replacing Genki. Maranhao was to be the one who really made the difference, though
His first goal came in the 66th minute after a long spell of possession. Port worked the ball out to the right hand side, where Pakorn laid the ball back to Nitipong, who fizzed in a dangerous cross. Maranhao got ahead of his marker and glanced his header past the Korat ‘keeper in to the far corner. He received a booking for his hilarious celebration – taking his shirt off and showing Zone B some choice dance moves – but Maranhao didn’t care.
Minutes later he added a second goal, this time of his own making. Maranhao ran at the Korat left-back, who tried to stop him with a desperate lunge. The referee pointed to the spot, and the confident Brazilian took the penalty himself, calmly sending the ‘keeper the wrong way.
Maranhao – not for the first time this pre-season – looked like Port’s best player when was brought on, prompting questions as to why he hasn’t yet found another club. Surely a player of his ability should be in high demand if not in T1 then at least in T2. Is there another reason he’s still here? With new striker Asdrubal on the bench but not featuring at all for the last two games, some fans have been speculating that the door could could still be open for Maranhao to make a shock return, but at this stage with the foreign player quota filled, that is just speculation.
Port continued to look dangerous throughout the final 20 minutes, but Maranhao could not complete his hattrick with a tricky half-chance from the edge of the area.
Port can be happy with the 2 – 0 win and their first clean sheet of the year, although the first half performance and the injuries were both causes for concern. They will continue their preparation with an away game on Saturday 28th January at PTT Rayong, where Port will hope to extend their winning streak to four games and avoid further injuries.