Port rounded off their preparations for the 2017 T1 season yesterday with a win against an impressive BBCU side – their 5th consecutive friendly win, making optimism high for the new season.
Before the game, The Sandpit team
whored ourselves around the dressing room waited on the touchline to hand over our donations to the club’s Khlong Thoey fire appeal, where we were able to have a chat to Maranhao, sporting some rather worrying ankle strapping, and the affable A, aka Mr Pang, who confirmed that Asdrubal’s knee gave way in training on Friday and that he’s heading back to Spain as a result. He added that the club may try and bring in another foreigner before the weekend, and asked us if we wanted a trial. I think he was joking, but Tom was stripped down ready for action within seconds (hopefully the last time I will have to write those words this season).
After the obligatory charity photoshoot (more on our fire appeal tomorrow by the way), it was time to procure further supplies of Leo and take our seats in Zone B for the game. BBCU may have been relegated by the mid-season break last year but they look fit and hungry for immediate promotion this time, bolstered by the signing of French forward Romain Gasmi, whom some if you will remember from our games with Chiang Mai last season.
Gasmi is a Thiago-level irritant, the difference being he’s also a talented and hardworking footballer, and he showed both sides of his character in the first half. After starting a fight with Dolah, who made it clear that this was a most unwise course of action, he followed it up with a stunning 35th-minute free kick which beat Weera at his near post. Weera, who once again spent 45 minutes showing just why he’s third-choice keeper, should probably have saved it, but it was a wonderful – or-Gasmi-c even – strike.
A mostly 2nd/3rd-string Port were already a goal up by that point, Ekkapoom bombing down the wing, leaving defenders for dead and delivering a pinpoint cross to the back stick for Wuttichai to convert on 15 minutes. As we would see again in the last minute, Port finally have players who can cross a ball, and players who can convert said crosses into goals. Wonders never cease.
The Inspector Clouseaus probably had the best of the first half, but were continually denied by a steely Commissioner Dreyfus of a defence, marshalled by the increasingly impressive Dolah and his fellow Thai-Swede, Niran Hansson. Little is known about Hansson and he was expected to be one for the future, but the ease with which he slotted into Port’s defence yesterday suggests we’ll see him in the first team sooner rather than later. Built like a brick sauna, comfortable on the ball and not afraid to get stuck in, Hansson can also play at RB and may have just leapfrogged the competition to win a place on the bench for Saturday. Look out for our interview with him coming next week.
He further helped his cause 15 minutes into the second half when he bundled the ball into the net after a goalmouth scramble to put Port 2-1 up. The lead didn’t last long when Port gave away a penalty – please don’t expect me to give you details of things that happen in front of Zone D when I’m standing in Zone B – which our friend Gasmi converted to make it 2-2.
Port were looking rather aimless at this point, rarely threatening BBCU’s goal and new striker Danudech Trimongkolchok, aka Jar Jar Binks, failing once again to impress – I certainly don’t think he left the door ajar-jar for regular first team action.
With around 10 minutes to go, Jadet decided to put the hammer down and send on the big cheeses, with the likes of Rochela, Kaludjerovic, Pakorn and Sivakorn sweeping majestically onto the pitch, and in the 89th minute it paid off when a wonderful cross from Pakorn was sent the back of the net by a bullet header from Kalu, who looks like the proper striker we’ve been crying out for for so long.
It was just a shame that we didn’t get to see Port’s starting XI play together longer, as they look very impressive. Solid at the back, with the excellent Wanchalerm, clearly an expert in football’s dark arts, sitting in front of the back four; dynamic on the wings, especially when Pinyo took his place on the left; and lively up front, with Suarez orchestrating attacks from the midfield. I hope I’m not putting the usual Russell curse on things by saying that I think we will have an enjoyable and hopefully successful 2017. Bring on Ratchaburi!