Port host Thai Honda on Sunday, looking for revenge for the 5-1 thrashing inflicted on them in March. It was Port’s worst performance of the season, and a particularly tough one to take for the fans who had traveled to Lad Krabang to watch the car crash unfold. It’s not just a revenge mission on Sunday though, but a key moment in Port’s season. Having suffered second half capitulations in their last 4 league games, Port’s belief that they can continue the form that accelerated them up the table must be taking a battering. Promising first half performances followed by abysmal second halves saw Port lose comfortably to both Suphanburi and Bangkok Utd, and in the other two games Port surrendered two goal leads by giving away late penalties away at both Sisaket and Navy. Port just can’t seem to get in to gear. With 4 tough games coming up – 3 away from home – Port need to bank some points now to avoid reversing down towards the danger zone.
Players to Watch
I’ve always thought of Ricardo Jesus (9) as one of the better Scary Foreign Strikers around, but he is having a real stinker in 2017. Jesus’ two goals against Port in March and the winner he scored against Bangkok Glass in April are his only goals of the season, which for a foreign striker in T1 is inexcusable. Quite a drop from being signed for 2 million Euros by CSKA Moskow. His dip in form has led to Jesus playing just 58 minutes in Honda’s last 3 games, and it seems that when they drop him, they really don’t have any decent back-up. 20 year old Sittichok Kannoo who is on loan from Buriram will probably be a good striker one day, but 4 goals in 16 isn’t anything to write home about.
It was winger Rafinha (7) who really ripped Port to shreds in the last encounter, chalking up two assists and looking like the best player on the pitch by a mile, but funnily enough, he has also had a pretty poor season. One goal and five assists is a very unremarkable record for a winger. Do Honda have any decent players?
Well, no, not really. Not that I can find, anyway. They had a couple of decent Thai attacking midfielders in the first half of the season, but they have been picked up by bigger clubs, and Honda really seem to have little else of note. New Brazilian Roninho (77) is probably the best of the rest, having scored an assisted from dead balls against Bangkok United, but that’s about it.
It doesn’t get any better for Honda when you look at the form table, either. Since their stunning upset against Muangthong, Honda scraped past Super Power by virtue of a late penalty miss, and have suffered 5 league losses on the bounce. They had a bit of fun in the Cup, though, putting 10 goals past Muangkan United, who as far as I can tell don’t play in a league and have no players.
With the switch to 3-5-2 resulting in a draw against Navy, it’s anyone’s guess whether Zico will stick with his new system on Sunday. Whilst it was refreshing to see Genki (18) and Pakorn (9) giving Josimar (30) some real support, the same old problems came back to haunt Port at the back.
Rattanai (17) messed up for the first goal on Wednesday. As far as I can remember it’s his second clanger of the season, after spilling a catch early on in the season against Suphanburi. Shit happens, but he’s still my number 1 ‘keeper.
In defense, Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) were joined by Pravinwat (55) as Zico trialed the back 3 that worked so well for Thailand under his tutelage. Perhaps the difference was that he had Heea Um at left wing back, and we have Panpanpong (19). Panpanpong has had his moments this season, but let’s be honest. He can defend – sometimes – but he’s an absolute disaster with the ball at his feet, and has less than no pace. Surely Jetjinn (51) or Yossawat (28) are better bets in that position. On the other side, however, Nitipong (34) has really found his dream position. More license to attack, less responsibility to defend, and less chance of him being near enough the penalty area to give away penalties. Still, Pravinwat (55) made sure Port still gave up their obligatory penalty. In fairness to him, it didn’t looks like a penalty at all. I think the referee was conned.
In midfield, Adisorn (13) and Siwakorn (16) took up their usual positions, but without the extra midfielder to drop back in to give them a hand they looked more exposed than usual. I’m starting to feel like I did at the beginning of the season again, when I was calling for Adisorn to be dropped and replaced with a more natural defensive midfielder. Unfortunately, Tatchanon (39) doesn’t seem to be getting any more love from Zico than he did from Jadet, so if Adisorn is going to be replaced, there’s probably going to have to be some transfer activity. Piyachat (88) came on for Adisorn in the second half against Navy, but although he may be better with the ball than Adisorn, he’s no defensive midfielder. Ittipol (7) is a more disciplined option, although at 33 that would hardly be a long-term fix.
Going forward, I was very happy to see Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) really given the freedom they need for this system to work. Genki’s goal was a textbook example of how far forward he needs to play to offer Josimar (30) the support he needs, and in the first half at least Port did have some cutting edge. With the Mongkol transfer hanging in the balance, and the proposed deal for Rungrath apparently dead in the water, Pakorn could yet hang on to his right wing berth.
In injury news, Josimar (30) has picked up a nasty knock in a motorcycle accident, and will be out of action for 2-3 weeks, meaning Zico has a real dilemma about who to replace him with. Could Kaludjerovic (10) finally be given another chance? Will available-again Suarez (5) play out of position up top? Will Wuttichai (14) or Tana (99) attempt to lead the line? Over to you, gaffer.
The Port defence against the referee. My unconventional choice of Key Battle here reflects Port’s unconventional choice of how to defend a lead. This season, the received wisdom seems to be that stopping your opponents by kicking them is the way to go. Unfortunately, the referee’s job is to give a penalty when this happens inside the box. Port’s tactics and the rules of the game are therefore largely incompatible. If they don’t grow up and learn some discipline, Port’s aim for a top half finish is not going to be realized. Sad, but true.
The match will be shown live on True Sports 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 2 July, 2017.