Football is back! And for the first game of the second half of the season, Port made the short trip north to take on the War Elephant, AKA Suphanburi FC. Before the game I nailed my colours to the mast(odon), and predicted that an away win would be a mammoth task. Sadly I was to be proved correct…
As is usual on Port away trips, the van was abuzz with intelligent and erudite discussion of the latest burning issues. Monster Munch – are they crisps or snacks? Jaffa Cakes – cakes or biscuits? Ultimately no consensus was reached on either issue but when James Powell announced emphatically that “If it says ‘McVities’ on the packet, you can be pretty fucking sure it’s a biscuit”, dissenting voices were few.
Otherwise the journey passed fairly unremarkably, apart from messrs Hockley & Spittal having an argument over who originally recorded I’m Henry VIII I Am, Hockers angrily retorting “Don’t ask a question if you don’t know the bloody answer” – a statement that would come back to haunt him on the return journey.
We arrived at Suphanburi’s very well-appointed stadium with plenty of time to spare, so tickets duly purchased, we sought refreshments and victuals, which – gawd bless ‘im – the War Elephant provided in abundance. I was delighted to find a stall selling that veritable Ambrosia of the Gods, Hainan chicken rice, and worked my way through two plates of the stuff. The only black mark on the F&B front was that only the Devil’s Piss, aka Chang, was available, but needs must and when loaded up with ice it was just about drinkable, and by half time the usual Khlong Thoey entrepreneurs had set up a stall in the carpark to provide thirsty Port fans with the amber elixir itself, Leo.
As kickoff time approached, we discovered that Suphanburi is possibly the last sporting organisation on the planet that still plays kiddie-fiddling glam rocker Gary Glitter’s classic Rock & Roll Pt 1 before games (some reprobates later suggested that I entitle this report ‘Port Taken Up the Gary Glitter‘, but that would be totally inappropriate for a family website such as The Sandpit).
Inside the stadium we found a decent away following in what is, despite the running track, a very smart stadium with a good pitch, decent views, and the biggest scoreboard in Thailand. A shame so few home fans had bothered to turn out, but I guess the Chappuis fanclub have shifted their loyalties elsewhere. Anyway, KO time.
First, the good news – Maranhao is back! The star of 2016 sat out the first half of the season but has been named in the matchday squad for the second half, which is great news. Mazza took up his usual place on the right, with Suarez nowhere to be seen, which suggests we’ve seen the last of the consistently underwhelming Spaniard at Port.
The bad news – Wuttichai started, and as captain. Quite how he is still anywhere near the first team is beyond me. And Pakorn is still apparently on monk leave. Now, I know this is Thailand and one has to make allowances, but letting one of your best players skip games so he can play at being a monk is utterly ridiculous. The no9 may, like a surprising number of Thai males, have his knockers, but his stats show he’s our most productive player and we struggled without his dead-ball excellence.
Otherwise, it was normal service: Worawut; Pinkong, Dolah, Rochela, Nitipong; Genki, Adisorn, Siwakorn, Maranhao; Josimar, Wuttichai.
This was the classic game of two halves with Port tearing the Elephant a new arsehole (imagine that – an elephant with two arseholes. I pity the zookeeper charged with looking after that particular beast) for much of the first 45 minutes. Continuing the theme of hideously deformed animals, Maranhao (92) came out onto the pitch like a dog with two dicks and, despite being kicked by Suphanburi defenders every time he got the ball, caused all manner of problems, with Josimar (30) finally getting the service he’s been craving.
The bombardment began in the 4th minute when Josi narrowly headed a Nitipong (34) free kick over the bar. On 11 minutes, Maranhao skinned the Suphan left-back and crossed for Josi who, despite the attention of several defenders, managed to get a shot away but found the keeper rather than the net. Seconds later Josi returned the favour, feeding his fellow Brazilian on the edge of the box, but the latter’s curled shot was easily saved by the keeper. Two minutes later a peach of a cross from Nitipong found Josi on the far post, only for his first-time shot to be brilliantly parried by the keeper, and then minutes after that Maranhao fed a delicious through ball to Genki (18), whose shot ricocheted off the post. And on the stroke of halftime, a truly sumptuous chip from Rochela (22) found Josi in the area, but again his shot crashed back off the crossbar.
We sipped our halftime beers wondering how on earth Port had failed to score, and worrying that our wasteful finishing would come back to bite us on our collective arse. Our worries were confirmed as the War Elephant laid siege to the Port defence right from the restart. Maranhao had for some reason moved onto the left, encouraging Nitipong, who frequently forgets he’s supposed to be a defender, to get forward, leaving acres of space down Port’s right-hand side.
Had Suphan been 3-0 up within the first 10 minutes of the half, noone could’ve complained, with Worawut, the post and Rochela (22) all keeping the ball out on various occasions. Seeing the game slipping away, Jadet rang the changes by taking off Wuttichai (14) who, despite having done absolutely nothing during the game but point at various people, had the temerity to remonstrate with the bench when his number came up – rather like when my dog takes a shit in the kitchen and has the nerve to growl at me when I kick her out into the garden. He was replaced by Tana (99), which is rather like taking a Nickelback CD out of the player only to replace it with a Limp Bizkit one, but after Wuttichai’s utterly pathetic performance I was actually quite pleased to see the Moustachioed Assassin and he did briefly liven up Port’s increasingly moribund attack.
But the game was now clearly Suphanburi’s to win and on 78 minutes they took the lead. The otherwise excellent Adisorn (13) was muscled off the ball in midfield and the ball found its way out to Port’s right (where Nitipong wasn’t) and to our old friend Dellatorre, who rifled an angled shot past Worawut into the Port net. Five minutes later it was game over when a chipped through ball found Velez, and the Port defence got in an awful mess trying – and failing – to stop the Argentinian striker who blasted past Worawut for 2-0.
And that, basically, was that. A game Port should’ve wrapped up by half-time but which they lost due to a combination of a lack of finishing and some utterly dreadful second-half defending. However, Port will almost certainly play worse than this and win this season. Once Maranhao gets up to full match fitness, Pakorn ditches the orange robes for the orange & blue stripes, and either Jadue or Asdrubal join the group, Port should be much more lethal in attack. It’s in defence where the problems lie. Port have conceded 34 goals in 18 games so far and, as much as we praise Dolah (4) and Rochela, something is clearly wrong defensively. Rattanai’s return should shore things up a little, and hopefully Yossawat will replace Pinkong before too long, because if Port continue to defend like they did in the second half tonight, bottom half obscurity beckons.
The journey home was initially somewhat sombre, the silence punctuated occasionally by AC swearing in impeccable West Midlands English; but by the time we made a beer stop spirits lightened and Hockers’ football team name quiz had us gripped for a good 45 minutes, even though he later revealed he didn’t know the answers himself. What was that about not asking questions you don’t know the answers to….? It seems that Dom’s journey back to his hotel in Suphanburi was much more eventful, with the bespectacled Sangsom-soaked Sandpitter fighting off the amorous advances of a smitten taxi driver. Anyway another great away trip and thanks as usual to Keith for organising the van.
Man of the Match – Adisorn
Despite the result, there were a few contenders for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. It was a sheer joy to see Maranhao in a Port shirt again and he clearly enjoyed it as much as we did, despite tiring in the second half. Dolah had a truly magnificent first half but was far less imposing in the second. And Siwakorn was his usual destructive and constructive self, picking up his usual yellow card in the 3rd minute.
But Adisorn, the Pocket Rocket, gets the nod this week. Other than losing the ball for Suphan’s first goal, the little no13 had an absolute stormer of a game, harrying Suphan’s forwards and popping up with the ball over the pitch, even – unusually for him – making some good passes too. With Siwakorn suspended for the Bangkok Utd game, a similar performance will be needed next weekend.