Port conceded their 11th penalty of the season to throw away what would have been a precious, though scarcely deserved, three points at the Navy Stadium last night. We would have settled for a draw before the game but, just as at Sisaket, a late rush of blood to the head earned the referee’s ire and another frustrating conclusion. It was difficult to see the incident from our distant vantage point but, deserved or not, we should not be even giving the referee the option of some supplying some Home comfort. More discipline please, Gents!
Port lined up with what our trio of travelling, farang fans considered to be a back three of Dolah (4), Rochela (22) and Pravinwat (55), with newly installed wingbacks Nitipong (34) and Pinkong (19) providing both flanking defensive cover and attacking intent. Siwakorn (16) and Adisorn (13) were to hustle and jostle in midfield with Pakorn (9), Josimar (30) and Genki (18) our main goal threats.
Well, that was the plan anyway. This is a system that has proved highly successful for many teams of late, most notably, Chelsea, but players need time to understand and adapt to it and, for the first quarter of the game, we struggled. Pinkong, in particular, didn’t know whether to attack or defend, and in the end did neither, so there was a constant threat down our left flank, with Nitipong, on the other side, only slightly more comfortable. The central three, as one might expect, were solid and the system may eventually bear fruit. However, a stronger team than Navy may well have exploited this opening edginess. As it was, both Rodrigo (23) and Andre Luis (7) hit the post within the first 20 minutes and Port were living dangerously.
Then, out of the blue in the 28th minute, Josi, who ploughed a brave, lone furrow all night, weaved his way through several challenges on the edge of the box, drifting out to the left, to provide a delightful cross (intended or not) for Genki to glide home with the simplest of headers. The travelling Port fans, recently boosted by the arrival of the Drum Majors were ecstatic. Unbelievably, that lead was doubled thirteen minutes later with another Pakorn, ‘direct from a corner’, effort. I’m beginning to think that these are no longer a fluke! 2-0, surely we can’t stuff this one up?
‘We’re Port and of Course We Can’.
Port’s second half performance, IMHO, was dismal. We were pedantic and lacking in ideas and even when we got into promising positions, mostly down the flanks prompted by a slightly subdued Siwakorn’s still accurate distribution, passes and crosses were played into unoccupied spaces (never to be filled), the nearest defender, or out of touch. We were losing possession at the rate of the post-war British Empire.
I had foolishly declared in my match preview that we were a better team than Navy but there was nothing on view to support that. Navy played with patience and a greater authority, with the inter-changeable front trio of Rodrigo, Andre Luis and Durosinmi (40) putting our central three at full stretch. To their credit, they largely held their nerve and with a combination of lady luck and stout defending, Port held on to their lead until the 67th minute with a goal conceded from an unlikely source.
Rattanai’s handling has been one of his strengths this season, making him number one choice, but when he appeared to miss a simple corner (remember, we were a long distance away), Navy full back Chaothonglang was on hand to tap into an empty net.
It was at this point that seasoned Port away followers could sadly predict the final outcome, made even more likely when Tana (99) replaced Genki. Navy were now dominating, and when the ball skidded across the box and out for a throw-in, in yet another suspense-filled raid, the sense of relief was palpable. But then, hold your breath, there was that familiar, raised arm pointing to the spot, the yellow card brandished and that sick to my stomach, here we go again feeling, as Pravinwat apparently manhandled an opponent in the box. Rodrigo duly dispatched the resultant penalty with aplomb. There was just enough time for Suarez to replace Pakorn and for Port to probably have their first shot on goal in the entire half, only for Piyachat (88, on for Adisorn) to balloon it over the bar.
Final emotions again were a mixture of frustration and not a little anger – but we always had Ban Chang!
As for MOTM, none of us could really recall any player having an above average game, so my Man (Boys) of the Match award goes to the Navy Cadet choir, who, although probably in their massed ranks behind the goal under sufferance, kept up their jubilant chanting and singing throughout the game, including some generous homages to Port and their fans – well done boys, you did the Navy proud!