A very large contingent of Port fans – officially about 6,500 (Ed – LOL) – welcomed Zico to PAT this Sunday as Bangkok United paid a visit.
Taking my usual perch at the top of Zone A to watch the teams warm up the first thing that struck me was how fit the United players look in comparison to our squad. I must admit a fondness for Bangkok United, partially because one of their players, Anthony, is from my hometown and because the club has been built with a plan from the day they entered the top flight. Each season has seen a better squad and for the most part better results.
United started with their most formidable offensive lineup of Mario (20), Boskovic (7) and Leesaw (14). Also starting was their new Iranian midfielder Pooladi (9). Interestingly enough their other foreign acquisition Ede (17) was not in the matchday squad.
With the exception of Ittipol (7) in the midfield, Worawut (36) in goal, and Nitipong (34) at fullback, the Port lineup was as Tom predicted
As soon as the first whistle blew to begin the match it was obvious that Port were going to play differently in the Zico era. Wider passing lanes were created, passes were quicker, and the opposition was being pressured in their half. Modern football arrives at PAT. Some good early pressure from Port led to a Josi header that missed, but showed promise. Tough play in the opening half led to a slew of “Pakcorners” one of which resulted in a cross that Josi failed to make contact with. Port’s pressure continued to result in possession, but no real quality chances. BU’s Persian, a nasty piece of work, obviously frustrated by Port’s pesky players finally received a yellow after several warnings. One thought for sure if his antics continued he would be sent off. The last minutes of the first half brought BU’s first real chances of the match. First off, a Boskovic free kick that just missed the target and the second when the woodwork was rattled and Port struggled to clear. Port were the better side in the first half, but just as in Suphan the week before, the failure to capitalize was to come back and haunt them.
The second half began with Port in a less aggressive posture. Two quick yellows, one from Pakorn (9) and one from Ittipol (7) seemed to prod the team on a bit. Perhaps our best chance of the night came soon after the yellows when Josi was hit with a pass that saw him in front of the defender. Sadly as we have seen so many times this season, he was unable to convert this into a credible shot. However, Port’s play picked back up and things were looking good until the first substitution, Wuttichai (14) for Ittipol. At this point the game changed dramatically and swung in BU’s favor. No longer were Port the aggressors as Port gifted United the ball several times with a slew of unforced errors. Realizing his big Iranian was riding a yellow, United manager Mano Polking brought in Pokklaw (39) and BU began pushing forward. Pakorn who still does not appear fit after his extended absence from the team was subbed off for Tana (99), who has far from excelled on the wing this year. Mika (16) was removed in favor of Ekkachai (2) and BU were rolling and pushing the ball up at will. Finally it paid off with Nitipong committing a reckless foul in the box and Boskovic converting from the spot. Realizing that Port needed some speed Ekkapoom (8) was brought in for Genki (18), but the speed on the left could not make up for the lack of it on the right and in the middle. Another giveaway led to a Mario goal and Port were done. Just a few minutes later Boskovic scored on the break after heading a pass down to his feet. Zico’s first match ends 0-3.
Thoughts on the Match
It was great to see Port playing high-tempo modern football. After boring Jadet-ball, if nothing else, Zico will bring some pizzazz to the PAT. It also seems the players like him and will listen to him. With the right squad he could lead us far.
We are not fit enough to play this style for 90 min. One look at our team in comparison to BU tells you quite a bit. The BU players are all lean, ripped, and very well conditioned. I am sure their training methods are state of the art. I would bet they even have a dietician on staff as well. If we are going to compete we need to up the fitness a few notches.
Our offensive players are not producing. The last two matches we have conceded five and scored none. Last week the chances were there; we should have been home and dry by the half, but instead lost 2-0. We just don’t have the quality up front that we need in T1.
The foreign contingent will be the same for the second leg as it was for the first. Honestly, we needed an upgrade and were allowed two moves to do it. Instead we moved Maranhao (29) into the squad for Kalu (10) and then Kalu back into the squad for Maranhao. (Ed – waiting for confirmation on this absolutely damning rumour) To the best of my knowledge this completes our transfer window foreign quota. Just astonishing. How did this happen? One wonders where the goals are going to come from.
Why not bring in Kalu? I certainly expected the first substitution to be Kalu for Josi, not Wuttichai for Ittipol. Perhaps he could have found the target. Why not use him?
One hopes are that Zico saw some of the same things we did tonight and makes adjustments accordingly. There are some personnel issues to be dealt with on the squad.
Port FC Man of the Match
Honorable mentions to Prawinwat (55) and Jetjin (51), but my MOTM goes to Ittipol (7), whose hard-nosed play and passes kept us the better side in the first half. After he was subbed off, it was all downhill.
In closing it was a mixed debut for Zico, A first half filled with promise and a second to forget. I like the style; I just hope we have the men to play it. Goals are going to be tough to come by this leg. That’s obvious. As long as we stay up, that’s all that matters.
It does not get much easier as we are off on Wednesday to play an in-form Navy team at a stadium we have never done well in. We need the three points.