Football came home yesterday as Port opened their season at the PAT against Ratchaburi in front of what looked like a full house. An evening of great football, controversy, excitement and heavy drinking. Ah, we’ve missed you.
What’s that? Heavy drinking? Wasn’t it a dry day due to the Makha Bucha holiday? In theory, yes. But it’s a brave man who tells Port fans they can’t get leathered, particularly after 5 months without football. I was just about to pack some cold Leos into my backpack before heading to the stadium when my wife, who had gone down to the PAT earlier, broke the joyous news that the beer stalls were serving as per normal. It’s a Makha Bucha miracle!
The new season’s shirts were also revealed, modelled by friend of the Sandpit Patrick Bentley, to mixed reviews. The home shirt looks better on the pitch than it does close up, though the Leo logo proved popular and the black away shirt is very tasty.
We had no firm idea of what the lineup would be, with further confusion sowed the previous evening when Brazilian striker Josimar confirmed that he’d passed his medical and signed for Port, and then Ratchaburi’s Armenian striker Edgar Manucharyan was pictured wearing Port kit, with Ratchaburi confirming on Twitter the morning of the game that he had indeed signed for Port. That makes seven foreigners, so quite what is going on is a mystery.
Eyebrows were raised when the lineup was revealed, with Jadet paying virtually no attention to player performances in pre-season friendlies and picking Piyachart at LB, Piyachat as DM and Nitipong at RB. Heads were scratched when Piyachat went off injured in the first half and was replaced not by Wanchalerm or Tatchanon, but the long-forgotten Adisorn.
And in the first half Port’s play was as disjointed as Jadet’s thinking, as Ratchaburi, looking stronger, fitter and better organised, and blessed with the obligatory Scary Foreign Strikers that Port continually refuse to sign, threatened to run away with the game in the first 15 minutes, with only some heroic defending from Rochela keeping the score at 0-0. After weathering the storm, Port started to get more into the game and during a good spell of pressure Suarez shaved the crossbar with a diagonal shot from the right. But as the half-time whistle blew, there was general relief that we were still on level terms.
The second half began in a much more lively fashion, the excellent Rattanai making a superb stop from point blank range before Essombe fired over the bar. Then Port took hold of the game for the next 10 minutes, launching wave after wave of attacks with the otherwise unimpressive Kaludjerovic almost scoring from a header.
But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 77th minute, when a corner was headed back into the area where the excellent Santos, man of the match for me, headed in at the post. A bit harsh on Port who had had the best of the half but, and I can’t believe we’re still saying this, completely lacked any kind of goal threat.
Ten minutes later chaos reigned, when we were reminded of just how bad top flight refereeing is in Thailand. A Tana ball into the box was blocked by a defender, with a hand claimed Port, and the ref initially appeared to give a penalty which, after consultation with both his assistants and a lot of handbaggery from both sets of players, was amended to a free kick, despite the offence clearly taking place inside the area. Repeat viewing suggests it hit the defender’s leg rather than his hand, but if the referee thought there had been an offence, it should’ve been a penalty.
In front of an aggrieved Zone B, Pakorn curled the resulting free kick towards the far corner but was denied by an excellent save. But Port didn’t have to wait long to get their deserved equaliser. In the 5th minute of injury time a free kick was awarded on the edge of the Ratchaburi box. Pakorn pinged it into the box and right onto the head of Genki, who rose majestically from the melee like the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji to nod it past the keeper and into the net, sparking ecstatic scenes on the terraces as five months of frustration, and several hours of heavy drinking, caused an explosion of joy. Grown men hugged, women wept, and two weirdos started singing a Human League song.
So, a creditable first result against a very good side, but there is much work to do with Jadet clearly having no idea what his best side is, and some very good players sitting on the bench watching some very average ones. On the plus side, Suarez made a busy, combative debut, Siwakhorn and Genki’s workrate inspired their colleagues, Pakorn looked well up for it, and Rochela was majestic. On the minus, Kalu didn’t look like the SFS we’ve been waiting for, Dolah seems to lack pace, and until Pinkong came on, our full-backs were simply awful. A decent result from a poor performance, with much improvement needed if that top half place is going to be a reality.
PORT MAN OF THE MATCH – David Rochela
A typically classy, authoritative performance from the captain. Spent the first half having to cover for Piyachart at LB as well as doing his own job, yet still stopped Ratchaburi’s strikers from having a sniff. Apparently he had his pocket picked on the way home – the thieves got away with 2000BHT, his phone, and Marcel Essombe.