Shiver me timbers! The salty Sattahip seadogs of Navy FC sailed into Khlong Thoey on Saturday night in search of booty, but were sent to a watery grave by a disciplined, well-organised Port side who delivered their most solid performance of the season so far to win 1-0. The victory takes Port to the heady heights of 6th in T1. Yo ho ho and a bottle of Leo!
After the Terror of Thammasat, Jadet rang the changes and finally introduced Tachanon (39) in midfield, something he should really have done from day 1. The increasingly impressive Pinkong (19) was restored at left-back. Up front, Brazilian striker Josimar (30) was handed his first start, whilst Tana (99) started, somewhat bizarrely, on the left.
Having flown in from London on the morning of the match, nursing jetlag, a hangover and a heavy cold, your reporter was rather more dazed & confused than usual during last night’s game, and a cocktail of Lemsip Max and Leo didn’t exactly help matters. I didn’t even make it out of the stadium for a half-time bevvy. Unprecedented.
Port flew out of the blocks, clearly intent on consigning last week’s debacle to history, and tore into Navy from the start. And on 4 minutes, Nitipong skipped down the right, tried to cross the ball, and instead somehow managed to slice it into the far corner of the net for 1-0. A fortunate goal perhaps but it was certainly just reward for Port’s early attacking enthusiasm.
Port continued to dominate the first half, Suarez (5) and Josimar both being denied by the Navy netminder, with the scurvy seadogs over-reliant on an ageing and misfiring Bjorn Lindemann on the few occasions they got forward. Navy were frequently sitting so deep that Rochela (22), who once again put in so good a performance one gets tired talking about it, often found himself starting attacking moves from the halfway line.
Port emerged early for the second half, keen to put the game to bed, but whilst the midfield axis of Sivakhorn (16) & Tachanon were bossing the centre of the park, Port’s wingers were struggling – Pakorn (9) was having an off day, and Tana’s lack of energy and stamina were predictably exposed, which meant the excellent Josimar was getting very little service. It was no surprise when Tana was replaced by the more vibrant Genki later in the half.
The balance of the game shifted around the 70-minute mark when Port seemed to tire and their nautical nemeses started to get back into it, and for the remaining 24 minutes it was squeaky bum time as Navy bombarded Port, helped by Sivakhorn and Pinkong giving away sphincter-tightening free kicks around the box with alarming regularity. Dolah (4) and Rochela will have headaches this morning from clearing so many crosses, and on those rare occasions when they were bypassed, young Rattanai (17) was resolute in goal.
Port had a couple of chances to kill the game late on. Nitipong (34) shaved the crossbar when a pass to Josimar would’ve been a better option, and then in the last action of the game, the same two players found themselves 2 v 1 on Navy’s keeper, but Nitipong’s pass was just behind the burly Brazilian and, having to halt his run, he slipped and fell on the ball. At which point, to the relief of another big PAT crowd, the ref, who must’ve had an excellent game as I don’t remember shouting abuse at him even once, blew the whistle.
All in all, probably Port’s best overall performance of the season, helped by Jadet finally having the courage to pick his best players. Port were largely solid at the back and in midfield, and only the wings let the side down this time round. Had Jadet started with Genki or Ekkapoom on the left rather than the creaking Tana, those last 20 minutes might not have been so agonising. But 3 points are 3 points, and with tough games coming up away at Honda and home to Buriram, it was a game that Port simply had to win, and they did.
Man of the Match – Josimar Rodrigues
Refreshingly there were several candidates for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. Dolah had his best game in a Port shirt so far, and his defensive partner Rochela was classy as ever. Tachanon showed why we’ve been calling for his inclusion since the opening game with a superb performance in midfield, Pinkong pretty much made the LB slot his own, and Nitipong was excellent coming forward, particularly when freed up by the late arrival of Meechok (20).
But for me, it came down to the typically industrious, constructive and destructive Sivakhorn, and debut boy Josimar, with the Brazilian just shading it. Josimar looks like he could well be the striker Port have been missing for the last 2 seasons – fast, strong, a lovely first touch, accurate passing and an obvious eye for goal, he didn’t give Navy’s defenders one second of peace. But his real value, particularly during those nervy last 20 minutes, was as an outlet when Port were under the cosh, controlling long balls, holding up the play and bringing teammates into the game. He reminded me of my favourite Coventry player of all time, the mighty Cyrille Regis, and from me there is no higher praise than that. Chapéu senhor!