Chiang Why? Nont Denies Port: Port FC 1-2 Chiang Rai United

 

Port put in their best performance so far under new manager Zico, but came up just short against high-flying Chiang Rai. An inspired goalkeeping performance from Nont Muangngam (20) in the Chiang Rai goal and profligate finishing from Port’s forwards swayed a game which, had it been decided by any other metric, would have been a crushing victory for the home side. Unfortunately for Port goals win games, and Port’s ability to convert their chances was desperately lacking, as it has been for much of the season. We also bumped in to former Port *sob* now Police Tero defender Niran Hansson before kick-off, who told us he is getting along well at his new club. “Well, I’m playing!” he said. Quite.

 

 

Port started the game confidently, getting the ball wide quickly and efficiently, with Suarez (5) dropping back in to midfield where he is more comfortable and has more influence on the game. Ittipol (7) was also looking strong, but he was perhaps too strong in the tackle on Chiang Rai captain Tanaboon (17), who was stretchered off and taken straight to hospital after a clash with the veteran Port midfielder early on. Unfortunately, I am told it’s a serious potentially season-ending injury for Tanaboon, so we at The Sandpit wish the national team regular a speedy recovery.

 

 

In the 10th minute Suarez spread the play wide to Nitipong (34), who teed up Pakorn (9) for a trademark right-footed cross which Genki (18) headed over the diving ‘keeper and in to the net. The crowd went wild, Genki wheeled away in celebration and it was a few seconds before anyone realized that the linesman’s flag was raised. Replays showed that he was spot on, with Genki a fraction offside.

Port were undeterred though, using the same formula just a minute later. This time Josimar (30) couldn’t quite get a touch on Pakorn’s cross, but Genki followed up at the far post, and must have thought he’d scored with a well-struck right footed effort. Somehow, Chiang Rai’s 20 year old Thai-French ‘keeper Nont – a product of the AS Nancy youth system and a former Under 17 international for the Frogs – got some body part or other in the way (it looked like his head to me), and Port were again denied.

Next it was Chiang Rai’s turn to attack, and this time Worawut (36) in the Port goal was called on to make a flying save, denying midfielder Sivakorn (21, no, not our Siwakorn, their Sivakorn) with a superb reaction stop. The resulting corner – delivered by Sivakorn – was a lesson in set-piece organization from the visitors. Chiang Rai moved two attackers in front of Worawut, and with their markers that was 4 obstacles for Worawut to find his way past. The ball was delivered to an area Worawut may have been able to reach unobstructed, but with the traffic in his way he never stood a chance. He came halfway then stopped in no man’s land, but to be fair he probably wouldn’t have saved Prathum’s (5) header anyway, which was deposited with precision in to the bottom left corner.

With Port feeling like they could have been 2-0 up minutes earlier, the goal was a real gut-shot. Nevertheless, Port persevered and were quickly back on top. In the 42nd minute, Port won a free-kick within Pakorn range, but the winger’s effort missed to the left, with Nont looking like he had it covered anyway.

The second half started with some highly suspect defending from Panpanpong (19), who headed a ‘clearance’ straight up in the air. He was lucky Rochela (22) bailed him out with an aerial challenge on the line, and that was far from the only time El Capitan came to his left back’s rescue in the second half. Regularly caught out too far up the pitch, Panpanpong was slow to get back, and was probably the only member of the starting XI who had a bad game.

Pakorn, on the other hand, was having a stormer. His crossing was deadly and his forward runs were incisive and created real danger. He even put in a shift defensively! The rumours of Mongkol’s arrival at Port may well have been the motivation he needed to up his game, as he’s been superb ever since. In the 52nd minute, a jinking run from Pakorn gave him the chance to shoot from the edge of the area, but stretching slightly he didn’t quite catch it right and Nont made a fairly comfortable save.

Just a few minutes later, Port’s dominance finally paid off. Indecisive defending from former Port player Atit (2) lead to the ball bounced up on to his hand, and after a little hesitation, during which Josimar launched a shot on goal which was deflected over the bar – the referee pointed to the spot. At the time, I assumed that the penalty was given for the deflection on Josi’s shot, which would have been extremely harsh, but the original handball was clear from the referee’s vantage point, and he was absolutely right to award the spot-kick.

In the usual mess of whinging defenders that occurs whenever a penalty is awarded, Chiang Rai’s captain and goalscorer Prathum was in a particularly trollish mood. He stood in front of goal for ages for no apparent reason, during which time I may or may not have suggested that Dolah (4) take a particularly violent course of action against him. This may or may not have also been captured on video. Oh well, serves him right the cheeky git!

 

Anyone who goes for the bleached-braided look has got to be used to handling some abuse from the terraces…

 

Rochela was far less flustered than me though, and slotted his penalty in to the bottom right corner. The diving Nont got a hand on it and wasn’t far from keeping it out, but Rochela – as usual – was not to be denied from the spot. Port were back on level terms with more than 30 minutes still to go, and were now favourites to take all 3 points. Port didn’t let up for a minute, and were straight back on the attack. The referee again found himself having to make a decision when Genki sped through on to Pakorn’s delightful lofted pass and was cynically brought down by a defender who was clearly caught the wrong side, and was making no attempt to play the ball. Port, however, were a victim of their previous penalty, as the referee wasn’t about to give a second within a couple of minutes of the first. According to research I have undertaken today, Port were denied by a little known law, found in Section W, Subsection E, Paragraph A, Line K, which is commonly applied by Thai officials.

In the 64th minute Port looked to finally have taken the lead when a cross from Genki was headed goalwards by Suarez. He couldn’t have done much better than heading it down towards the bottom right corner, but somehow Nont once again came to Chiang Rai’s rescue, palming it just wide of the post with Josimar lurking nearby ready to pounce on the rebound. Surely the breakthrough was coming…

Well, it was, but not for the team who deserved it. A cross from deep by Vander Luiz (10) was flicked goalwards by Felipe Azevedo (11), and this time there was nothing that Worawut could do. Chiang Rai had only a couple of chances, but had finished clinically, whereas Port had been creating chances for fun but hadn’t been able to seal the deal. Port weren’t done yet, though.

On 78 minutes, Siwakorn’s well-struck shot was deflected just over the bar, and Port came even closer from the resulting corner. Josimar connected sweetly with a powerful heard from Pakorn’s outswinger, and it took a combination of Nont and the crossbar to deny the Brazilian striker. A couple of minutes later, fantastic work in the build-up by Suarez ended with Josimar missing by what can only have been a couple of inches with a powerful left footed from the edge of the area. He looked as shocked and exasperated as us that he hadn’t managed to score with either of his chances, and with time running out for Port, it was starting to feel like we were heading for the most unjust of defeats.

Chiang Rai threatened to add insult to injury on the break, but the score was to remain 1-2 as Port failed to find the breakthrough in the last 10 minutes. That was no thanks to Tana (99), who for some reason had replaced Genki despite the Japanese winger looking threatening throughout the second half. Tana showed his national team striking instincts by standing about 2 yards offside on the left wing for no reason whatsoever before politely passing the ball to the goalkeeper to waste what should have been Port’s last chance for a goal after some excellent build-up play from Pakorn. Kaludjerovic (10), who had bafflingly replaced the excellent Suarez, could be seen violently gesticulating in his teammate’s direction. We feel your pain, Kalu, and whatever you shouted at him, I’m sure we on the terraces shouted far worse! *cough cough Tim*

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

I haven’t checked, but I’m sure the official award went to Nont, who we will be seeing for Chiang Rai and probably Thailand for many years to come. For Port there are many excellent performances to choose from. Rochela was solid in defence, and should be thanked by Panpanpong for bailing him out on at least 3 occasions when he was caught out of position. Dolah was formidable as usual. Ittipol (7) looks a better bet in central midfield than Adisorn (13), although he only has an hour of football in the tank. Suarez was excellent in central midfield, dropping in and pushing forward at the right time, having one of his most influential games in a Port shirt. Pakorn once again provided the cutting edge, setting up several excellent chances that his teammates failed to convert.

After much head-scratching I’m going to give it to Pakorn, who for me probably had his most complete game for Port. Crossing, dribbling and tracking back were all there, with Suarez a very close second for similar reasons. Well played, lads! If we can reproduce that form just a few more times this season, we will have absolutely nothing to worry about.

 

Heart of Glass: The Sandpit Talks to Matt Smith

 

Port face a very difficult trip to high flyers Bangkok Glass this Saturday (5 August, 19:00), so to whet your appetites for one of Thai football’s longest-established Bangkok derbies, we had a chat to Glass’ long-serving Australian defender, and captain, Matt Smith…

 


How has the 2017 season been for you so far?

I feel BG had a good but mixed first leg. I feel the football we have played at times has been positive and attractive and we’ve put in some good performances and controlled games. However, I feel that we have let ourselves down by some sloppy results against the lower positioned teams in the league. For us to develop further we must continue to grow mentally and become more consistent.

I’m very happy with the team and professional manner in which the players have conducted themselves and feel we have a good squad. I’m confident we can take this into the remaining games and finish the season strong.

 

Which other teams have most impressed you this season?

I think the most complete team I’ve played against this season is Buriram. Although we beat them earlier in the season I feel they have a good mix of structure/ approach (both in attack and defence) and individually have some good players that can change games.

 

This is your third season at Glass, which counts as long service in Thai football! What’s kept you at the club for so long?

I guess you’ll have to ask the club… : ) Before I arrived at BG I conducted a lot of research about the club and the league before I decided to leave Brisbane. Supasin (VP) and Ricardo (former coach) flew to Brisbane to watch me play and we spent the next day discussing everything football. At that point the direction and vision that both the coach and the club had excited me and enticed to me to sign. I feel this is important as a player because I believe in working towards something greater and I wanted to align my ambition and character with that of a club with similar mentality.

Since being here my approach and attitude hasn’t changed to what I would desire to achieve here with BG, both individually and more important collectively. Hard work, professionalism and commitment are things I feel are minimal standards for football players.

With all this in mind, I guess I can and cannot control some things. But what I can help control and shape is the direction, professionalism and culture needed for players and the team to progress. I hold high standards of myself and others and believe in the collective progression.

I do not know what will happen in the future and I’m unsure even if I have answered this question, haha! You’ll have to ask the club why I have stayed here for the current time, but while I am here at BG I’m committed to helping develop this club.

 

During your time in Thai football, who’s the best opposition player you’ve faced?

There are some very good local and foreign players that I’ve played against during my time here. For me I look for consistency of quality and players that step up when the challenge is there.

Therefore, the best local player is Messi J. And best foreign player is Diogo.

 

Matt meets The Sandpit’s Tom Earls, refuses to hold Port scarf

 

You’re famously vocal on the pitch, to teammates and opposition players alike. Thai players are notoriously thin-skinned – have any of your colleagues or opponents ever taken offence? Do you shout in English, Thai or both?

Haha, famously vocal… interesting. I guess my football education in England and Australia was culturally very different to Thai football behaviour. I am always very conscious of my actions and behaviour here but to a limit that I don’t change myself as a player too much. I have some fantastic teammates that understand my behaviour both on and off the pitch. I truly respect Thai culture but also want to help create a positive environment of mutual accountability and high standards where all players, young, old, foreign or Thai have the ability and freedom to express themselves.

 

What about other cultural differences – what are the hardest things for foreign players coming to Thailand to adapt to? What advice would you give to foreigners thinking of moving here?

With any move to a new league and club I feel the player should always do his/her homework. Once making the decision to come to Thailand don’t drop your standards and keep pushing to be better and be successful. For any player, the moment you get in your comfort zone is the moment your standards drop.

 

You recently stated that you want to become a coach, possibly here in Asia, once your playing career is over. What’s the first thing you would train Thai defenders to do better?

Yes I do want to become a coach. This is not something new and have been studying it for a long time now.

One of the things I would improve is… I think collectively and generally defending here is a little reactive as a team to many situations. I would like the defensive aspect of my team to think patterns and passes ahead of when they occur. Basically for defenders to make better and faster decisions.

 

Whilst we all love Thai football, it has to be said that it is far from perfect. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Thai game and what can the authorities do to address them? What one thing from foreign football would you like to see introduced in Thailand? And is there anything about Thai football that would improve the game elsewhere?

There are many things in my opinion that could be improved for Thai football. From the development of grass roots for the future generations to go to a World Cup, or the ground standards across the league(s). All in all football in this country is still developing and we have to understand that this takes time. It is an exciting period because football is taking steps forward and not backwards which is important.

Pinpointing just one… I would like to see a rise in stadium standards. There are some nice playing stadiums in this league like BG, Buriram, Muangthong and Ratchaburi. I understand that it is an expense but something as simple as maintaining a high level playing surface is something that can be achieved in a short period of time. I feel if the surface is of high standard, so will be the standard of play which in turn makes it more exciting for the spectators.

 

Finally, Glass face Port at the Leo Stadium on 5 August. What do you think of Port’s 2017 season so far? Which players will you be keeping a close eye on? What do you think the score will be?

I don’t keep an eye on Port… ; ) After gaining promotion last season I expected them to be in the top half of the league. With the squad they have they should be finishing in the top 10. They have some good players and the next game between our two teams will no doubt be an entertaining game.

Of course I am for a home win. BG 2-0!

 


Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions! The Sandpit wishes you & Bangkok Glass the best of luck for the rest of the season – apart from on 5 August of course, when we hope you’ll continue not keeping an eye on Port…

 

The Chiang Right Stuff: Port FC v Chiang Rai Utd Preview

 

Port FC v Chiang Rai Utd on Sunday 7.00 pm – live on True Sports 2HD

 

Port return to Premier League action with a tricky home fixture against fourth place Chiang Rai. In the mini summer holiday Zico took the team away for some training days out in Korat. I hope this has given him a better view of the team. When I say better view I mean, the simple view that everyone else with eyes has. I hope he’s realised that Wuttichai is a liability and Tana should only be used as the last resort. Unfortunately what the team really needed was 3 major signings in the transfer window. Zico will need to know the squad well, and with 4 games in 11 days players might need to be shuffled around. Sunday is our best chance of points, as the other league match is Bangkok Glass away. Looking at the table you have to favour Chiang Rai, but Port have beaten them already this year so should go into this game with the hope of picking up something.  Maybe there is something about Chiang Rai that brings out the best in Port sides – in the last 7 games over 5 years Port are undefeated against the Beetles.

 

Port sit in ninth place with 32 points. With the implosion of Super Power, Port should easily pick up the points to guarantee safety. This being said, I will definitely be a lot happier when those points are actually in the bag, rather than a just a solid prediction. A target of 38/40 points gives us something to aim for and celebrate. After yo-yoing back and forth between T1 and T2 solid mid table obscurity might just be as good as it gets, but it’s something we can all enjoy.

 

In a League Cup of their Own

Chiang Rai comfortably booked themselves a place in the second round of the League Cup on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory away at Trang F.C. I was pretty disappointed with our performance at Ayutthaya. But when I was reminded they dispatched Chonburi in the first round of the FA Cup it doesn’t feel so bad. We were lucky to escape to victory, after not capitalising on so many gilt edged chances.

 

Chiang Rai’s Chances

Chiang Rai started the season looking like a genuine contenders and threat to the top two, but have now settled into the chasing pack. They are a decent T1 team who occasionally drop points. A string of good results then a loss to Navy away gives us hope. The likelihood of a blip is increased this weekend as Chiang Rai will be without Everton Goncalves Saturnino (28) – the ever present central defender is out on 4 yellow cards. The men to watch out for in the Chiang Rai attack are forward Rafael Coelho (9) who’s scored 11 goals and midfielder Felipe Azevedo (11) with 13 goals.

 

Port’s Usual Suspects

Wednesday’s starting line up was positive, with the hopes that a 4-4-2 formation would spark some champagne football. No champagne, only real pain for 89 minutes followed by a smash n’ grab win. Josimar (30) looked back on form, but his tireless running around showed up Kalu’s pedestrian ambling around the pitch. He had one nailed on chance, but he seems to need three chances like that to put one away.

 

We looked a lot more dangerous when we reverted to the tried and tested 4-5-1.  One variation that could be tried is centre back Praweewat (55) but he won’t be available on Sunday as he’s on 4 yellow cards. Left back Jetjin (51) looked good coming on in the second half on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see who Zico starts on Sunday. He has consistently picked Panpanpong (19), so is likely to stay with him. Worawut (36) should start between the sticks as Rattanai (17) is still out with the shoulder injury he picked up in Ubon. An Ayutthaya player did crash into Worawut (36) on Wednesday, but he shook it off and seems to be fine.

 

 

 

Key Matchups

Speed

Adisorn(13) v Felipe Azevedo (11)

 

Felipe Azevedo (11) is Chiang Rai’s best chance at goal but doesn’t seem to have 90 minutes of football in him. He has been subbed off 6 times and come off the bench to play in 3 games this season. If Adisorn (13) the pocket rocket can keep him in check and chase him around the midfield Port have a chance. If he manages to break free and link up with Coelho (9) we could be in trouble.

 

House of Cards

Siwakorn (16)  9 yellow cards v  Thitiphan (8)  8 yellow cards

 

The midfield will also see the battle of the most avid card collectors in T1. With Siwakorn first and Thitiphan joint second in the Premier league yellow card table, both have experienced two games out on suspension. Interestingly enough neither has seen red this season, suggesting they are consistently just doing enough to stop the opposition without really wanting to hospitalise anyone, “the gentlemen foulers”. This foul is not personal, this is just business.

 

It’s good to be back at Port after the long break. Enjoy it while it lasts: another month-long football drought is coming up. Bangkok Glass Away is 5th August, then there’s a month to wait till the next match Sukothai at home on 10th September.

 

Ayutthaya Take Port to the Wire: Ayutthaya Utd 1-2 Port FC (AET)

 

Port got their 2017 League Cup campaign off to a winning start at T3 Ayutthaya but made hard work of it, winning 2-1 after being taken to extra time.

Running Thailand’s finest English language football website isn’t all cocktail parties, adoring groupies and VIP boxes, and your correspondent had to cancel his trip to Ayutthaya at the very last minute after his big toenail got infected & had to be somewhat painfully removed on the morning of the game, so this brief report is based on watching the match on a dodgy (is there any other kind?) internet stream.

As is so often the case in away games, despite Zico signalling his intent to have a real go in the cups Port started rather limply and it was Ayutthaya who made the early running – having knocked Chonburi out of the FA Cup they clearly fancied their chances of taking another T1 scalp. On 16 minutes a giant-killing became even more likely when a cross from the right found big striker Kendall on the edge of the box, who steered his header past a somewhat static Worawut (36) into the top corner.

The shock of going a goal down sparked Port into life but as usual passes were going astray in the final third, with Kalu (10) putting in another lacklustre performance which had many of us watching pining for Maranhao. Nevertheless, the Serb is lethal in front of goal and had a header acrobatically turned round the post by Ayutthaya’s excellent keeper who made a number of superb saves – just before that he managed to fingertip a deflected Siwakorn (16) shot away from goal. Just before HT, a thunderous Pakorn (9) free kick cannoned off the post. The Midfield Monk didn’t have one of his better games with numerous crosses, free kicks and corners flying over the bar, but he was still at the heart of most of the good things Port did.

In the second half Port laid siege to the Ayutthaya goal only to be continually denied by that goalkeeper and some desperate goalline defending. Kalu was replaced by the Moustachioed Assassin Tana (99) with predictable results (ie an utter lack thereof), whilst Suarez (5) came on for Genki (18), somewhat more successfully, and it was the rangy Spaniard’s presence that led to Port’s equaliser, after a Pakorn free-kick was saved and Ayutthaya’s defenders got in a bit of a flap trying to clear it. I don’t think Suarez got the last touch as the ball flopped over the line – it was an OG in my opinion – but any 92nd minute equaliser is a thing of beauty, and it took Port into extra time. And there was another bonus in store when, after a tangle with Siwakorn, Ayutthaya forward Noel Chivuta complained to the referee that he’d been elbowed and was bafflingly given a red card.

The break saw some entertaining shenanigans with Ayutthaya’s coach and Port’s goalkeeping coach both having an attack of the Cunhas and walking around pointing at people, before play resumed, at which point it was clear that Ayutthaya were knackered and the game was Port’s for the taking. Pakorn came closest in the first half with an absolute thunderbastard of a shot against the crossbar, though Ayutthaya almost caught Port on the break a couple of times.

Just when it looked as if the second half was going to be equally goalless and penalties loomed, Pakorn skinned the home left-back and chipped in a lovely cross right onto the head of Suarez, who buried it into the net. 2-1 to Port, and into R2 after a bit of a scare.

Whilst this wasn’t Port’s best performance of the season, they just about did the job against a lively Ayutthaya team who deserve a lot of praise for their performance. It’s good to see Zico taking the cups seriously and fielding a full-strength team (if any team with Tana in it can be described as full-strength), and Port should dispatch the same opposition in the FA Cup next week with hopefully a bit less huffing & puffing.

 

Man of the Match – Pakorn

The mercurial no9 was at his most frustrating last night. On the one hand he continually misplaced passes, crosses & corners; on the other, he hit the bar twice and notched up assists for both goals, and it’s that that wins him the coveted MOTM award, on a night when it has to be said there weren’t too many contenders.

 

Asdrubal and Jadue Bid Port Adieu

 

Asdrubal Padron and Matias Jadue have reportedly both ended their time with Port, having played precisely zero minutes of competitive football. These reports are not yet officially confirmed, but it seems likely that they will be soon.

 

 

Asdrubal Padron arrived to much fanfare, looking to be Port’s marquee signing for the 2017 season, but a knee injury he sustained in training ended his season before it began. Although the 26 year old forward recovered much sooner than expected, he was not selected for the second leg of the season, despite his performances in mid-season friendlies suggesting he could have had more to contribute than some of his peers. Even if he needed some more time to reach match fitness, his inclusion in the squad seemed like a no-brainer to most who watched him in action. Asdrubal is rumoured to be heading to Australia, although no deal has been confirmed as of yet.

 

 

Matias Jadue has apparently also left Port. Why he even joined in the first place I have absolutely no idea. When he was signed, he was the eighth foreign player on Port’s books, and looked very much from his profile and his one friendly appearance like the runt of the litter. Unsurprisingly, the 25 year old Chilean Palestinian was not even considered for a place in the T1 squad, leaving him only the cup games to participate in. While warming up for his debut appearance against Royal Thai Fleet on a waterlogged pitch, however, Jadue crocked himself. Despite recently returning to training, Jadue has now agreed to move on, ending his bizarre, unhappy stint with Port.

 

 

In other rumours, there are whispers that Tachanon (39) is unhappy following his loan move to Chonburi. It looked to be a very strange decision to send a young player desperate for first team action to a top-half T1 team, and so it has proved. Tatchanon has not broken in to the team, and once again finds himself struggling to even get a place on the bench. Tatchanon is very well thought of by his fellow Port players, a few of whom have sung his praises and expressed surprise that he didn’t break in to the first XI in the first half of the season. He has been criminally overlooked, though, first by Jadet and then by Zico. Tatchanon started just one game under Jadet – when his disciplined midfield play lead to Port keeping a clean sheet against Navy – and Zico hasn’t involved him with the first team at all in the second half of the season. He was shipped off on transfer deadline day, although the club even managed to make a mess of that. A loan move to T2 would surely have made much more sense than sending him to Chonburi, where his development will continue to stall through lack of competitive action.

In team news for the upcoming run of 4 games in 11 days, it seems likely that Josimar (30) and Kaludjerovic (10) will be Zico’s first choice striking options in a traditional 4-4-2, meaning that Suarez (5) will drop to the bench. This is based on pictures from Port’s training camp in Khao Yai, where an ‘A’ side featuring the two foreign strikers faced off against a ‘B’ side in which Suarez was the lone foreigner. Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) were the front pair for the ‘B team. *shudders* Please don’t get too experimental this Wednesday against Ayutthaya (previewed here), Zico!

 

Wats Goin’ On: Ayutthaya v Port FC Match Preview

 

Next Wednesday (26 July, 18:30) Port make the short trip north to face Ayutthaya Utd in R1 of the Toyota League Cup. Now I’m firmly of the view that this competition should, as happens in England, take place during the first half of the season. It would avoid fixture congestion during the second leg, and the final would be a nice way to go into the mid-season break. Obviously as it’s a fairly sensible idea designed to make Thai football more attractive to fans it will never happen, and so after a 3-week break, Port find themselves playing 4 games in 11 days, before a 5-week break.

 

The Opposition

Given that Ayutthaya (aka Ayutthaya Warrior) ply their trade in T3, they may as well be the fucking Illuminati as far as finding out factual information online is concerned. What we do know is that, until 2016, they went under the somewhat less catchy name of Sena Municipality FC before becoming Ayutthaya Utd in 2016, and later merging with the already existent Ayutthaya Warrior FC to form a united Ayutthaya team, hence, one presumes, the name; although there is also an Ayutthaya FC who, to make matters even more confusing, sit one place behind Utd in T3 Upper.

Alan Partridge models the 2017 Ayutthaya shirt

They play in dark blue shirts with a sky blue chevron action flash a la Alan Partridge, play at the Ayutthaya Province Stadium, and were promoted from Central Division last season to take their place in Thai T3 Upper (AKA Euro Cake League Pro). Their star player is former Swatcat striker and Zambian international Noel Chivuta (read an interview with Noel here). They’re currently 4th, 2 pts off promotion, and recently beat Chonburi 3-2 in R1 of the FA Cup, so will fancy their chances of causing an upset against a Port team who aren’t exactly pulling up any trees at the moment.

 

Port Lineup

Since taking over from Jadet towards the end of the last break, Zico has shown little desire to tinker with a generally successful formula and has stuck with the 4-5-1 that has, on the whole, served Port well this season. Cup games, however, offer coaches the opportunity to have a fiddle with the players, as it were, and give a runout to some of those who aren’t otherwise getting much action. So it’s somewhat hard to predict what the lineup will be.

What we do know is that young keeper Rattanai (17) is out after picking up a nasty looking shoulder injury against Ubon, and will likely miss the next 4 games, so we probably won’t see him until after the next break. Worawut (36) would seem the logical replacement, but I suspect Zico will give loyal backup keeper and part-time rapper Watchara (clickety-click 66) a game to get him up to speed should he be needed in the upcoming league games.

Defensively, I fancy Meechok (20) to get the nod at RB ahead of Nitipong, with any 2 of 3 from Dolah (4), Rochela (22) and Pravinwat (55) starting in central defence. I also hope promising new boy Yossawat (28) finally gets a start at LB – it’s probably between him and Jetjinn (51).

Midfield is harder to call – will Zico use the game to get his first choice midfielders back into action after the layoff, or will he give them a break? Your guess is as good as mine but given the opposition I expect him to play a 4-4-2 which could see Siwakorn (16), Pakorn (9), Genki (18) and possibly Ittipol (7) starting; new boys Pummared (41) and Jadue (32) may also feature.

Up front Josimar (30), was pictured back in training at the club’s recent camp in Nakhon Ratchasima after his motorbike injury and will no doubt be in contention for a place. Will Zico use the game to ease the Brazilian gently back into action, will he stick with Kaludjerovic (10) who is starting to find his shooting boots, will he give starts to Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) OH NO PLEASE GOD NO, or will we see a first official appearance for Palestinian forward Jadue? As I said, I think it will be a 4-4-2 and Zico may use the occasion to see if Josi & Kalu can play together, which I believe they can. Kalu isn’t a lone striker but will surely thrive on the service he’ll get from Josi and goals will inevitably flow like the Leo which I hope we will be allowed to drink on the terraces whilst watching.

 

 

Getting There

The game takes place at Ayutthaya Province Stadium which, if Google Maps is to be believed, is only a 5-minute drive from Ayutthaya railway station. So we’ll be letting the train take the strain. There’s a 15:20 Rapid (it’s all relative) train from Hualamphong which arrives in Ayutthaya at 16:56 and costs a bargain 65BHT, then coming back the only option is the 21:42 DRC service which gets back to Bangkok at 22:55 and costs a somewhat pricier 345BHT.

If you want to join us, we’ll be meeting at Hualamphong at about 3pm.

 

 

Thailand BelaRuthless in King’s Cup Shoot-Out

 

Thailand retained the King’s Cup on Sunday night, prevailing 5-4 in a tense penalty shootout in which crowd favourite Siroch smashed in the winning spot-kick. The score was 0-0 in normal time, with both sides defending well and tackling hard throughout. Thailand showed that they were able to hold their own against tough, physical opposition marking an improvement from recent years, when they have frequently been dominated by rougher sides.

Belarus were first to blink in the shootout, with their second attempt being easily saved by Kawin, but Peerapat squandered Thailand’s advantage when he blasted his effort over the bar. Both sides then held their nerve until sudden-death, when Kawin pulled off a superb stop from Artsyom Skitaw, leaving the nervy task of converting the final penalty to Siroch. Without a goal to his name in 2017 Siroch can’t have been high on confidence, but with the whole stadium chanting his name he launched an absolute rocket of a penalty in to the back of the net, before whipping off his shirt and sprinting half way around the stadium.

 

Kawin (1, goalkeeper)

Kawin was solid as always in goal, and when it came to penalties Thailand must have felt like they had the advantage with him between the sticks. Kawin went the right way four out of six times, and his second stop was an outstanding piece of goalkeeping. On an occasion set up perfectly for the new captain, he led by example and put in a heroic, match-winning performance.

 

Adisorn (5, right back)

Adisorn was very solid at the back again, but it’s in that situation where the ball comes to him in a crossing position that you miss Tristan Do. The Muangthong centre back seems to suit Rajevac’s solid defensive system, though, as he keeps possession and is very rarely caught out of position.

 

Pansa (13, centre back)

Pansa was superb again today, with more attacking threat offered up by Belarus than North Korea. The 6 foot 3 Buriram man dealt well with the high balls in to the area, and made a couple of good blocks in a second half scramble in which Belarus looked sure to score.

 

Chalermpong (4, centre back)

Chalermpong had another good game, cementing his place in a team that has taken him until the age of 30 to break in to. Chalermpong’s name is now a common choice on the back of Thailand shirts, with Nakhon Ratchasima fans delighted to have a representative in the national team. I saw one with “Pride of Korat” under Chalermpong’s name. Quite.

 

Peerapat (2, left back)

Peerapat was much improved in normal time, linking up well with Theerathon and converting defence in to attack quickly on numerous occasions. I winced when I saw him step up to take the second spot-kick, though, having seen enough of his wild shooting to make me very nervous at the prospect of him taking a penalty. His effort never looked close, flying over the bar and wasting the advantage Thailand had just earned through Kawin’s save. His teammates saved his blushes, thankfully!

 

Tanaboon (17, centre midfield)

It was another average performance from Tanaboon, who once again saw his midfield partner out-work him in defence and attack. His positional sense is good though, and with Thitipan running around like a maniac for 90 minutes, his calming influence does have some value. Nevertheless, I would pick Sarach over Tanaboon as Thitipan’s partner when he’s back to full fitness.

 

Thitipan (8, centre midfield)

Thitipan was everywhere again, hunting down opposition players all over the pitch and more often than not leaving their face in the dirt. It’s not always pretty, but it’s damn sure effective. The opposition weren’t as accommodating as the North Koreans, though, and Thitipan was on the receiving end of some quite nasty tackles in the second half that he almost certainly deserved. In the dying minutes, Thitipan and Siroch were the only players really driving Thailand forward to try and get the win, and that was after 90 minutes of lung-busting work from the Chiang Rai midfielder.

His penalty was well struck, but the ‘keeper guessed right and very nearly kept it out. His face after it squirmed in to the side-netting said it all! He’s won me over in his last 3 games for Thailand, and I’m sure I’m not alone. The conversation should not be about whether he keeps his place, but who is best to partner him in midfield. My Player of the Tournament by some distance.

 

Mongkol (11, right wing)

Anonymous. He made his usual runs in to the box to help out Adisak, but when he doesn’t pop up with a goal, he doesn’t offer a great deal to the team, to be honest.

 

Theerathon (3, left wing)

Theerathon was the official Man of the Match, playing with more positional discipline than on Friday, but still drifting inside occasionally to add numbers when Thailand attacked through the middle. He showed off his superb touch on several occasions, and his delivery was top-notch as always. Adisak should have done better with one chance that Theerathon provided him with. His penalty was absolutely unstoppable too, despite that pause in the run-up which always makes me nervous. You don’t need to send the ‘keeper the wrong way if you’re going to smash it in to the top corner, Um!

 

Sanrawat (10, attacking midfield)

Much, much better than Friday. Sanrawat played deeper than he did in the semi-final, dropping back in to midfield where he is more comfortable to help build attacks. He was one of the best performers in the first 45 minutes, but faded a little in the second half. His change in position made for a better performance for him personally, but it didn’t do Adisak any favours, who was even more isolated than he was against North Korea. Thankfully the man who missed a penalty in last year’s King’s Cup was saved a serious test as he was substituted before the shootout.

 

Adisak (9, striker)

This has to go down as another missed opportunity for Adisak. Service was again limited, but you get the feeling Teerasil would have buried the chance Adisak fluffed when Theerathon crossed so invitingly from the left. His movement wasn’t great, he didn’t hold the ball up particularly well and he didn’t score. Teerasil can’t come back soon enough!

 

Substitutes

 

Siroch (22)

 

Photo by Cheerthai Power

 

Again, Pipo showed why he was a better option than Adisak when he came on. He won a freekick on the edge of the area which Thitipan went close with, and was generally a nuisance with his strength and movement. Pipo didn’t have any clear-cut chances in normal time, but took his chance to be the penalty hero with both hands, rifling in an unstoppable penalty in to the left hand side netting. Pick that out!

 

Teeratep (14)

Leesaw came on to huge cheers, but didn’t give the crowd anything else to celebrate in normal time. He gave the ball away a few times, and didn’t look quite on his game. He stepped up to take the first penalty, though, and found the bottom left hand corner with power and accuracy. Textbook.

 

Philip Roller (12)

Roller was surprisingly brought on as a right winger, replacing Mongkol. It was clear that Rajevac didn’t want to risk changing any of his defenders, and thought that Roller’s fresh legs would b more of a threat than Mongkol. He was right, but Roller didn’t have enough time to really get in to the game, until the shootout. Roller took one of those penalties where you have to send the ‘keeper the wrong way, or it will almost certainly be saved. Thankfully he did, and it wasn’t!

 

Featured Image by Changseuk

 

Brazilian Back on Ball After Bangkok Bike Bash

 

Some good news for Port fans today as we head into a short burst of footballing activity before the next mid-season break: top scorer Josimar Rodrigues, who was recently sidelined after picking up a leg injury as the result of a motorbike accident, is now back in training:

Josi was with the rest of the squad at their training camp in Nakhon Ratchasima, and should be in contention for a place in the Port squad to face Ayutthaya Utd in the League Cup on 26 July – the first of four games in eleven days. In his absence, Kaludjerovic has deputised pretty well scoring two goals in three games; however Kalu is a goal poacher, not a lone striker, and if Zico intends to persist with Port’s tried & tested 4-5-1 formation, Josi is the only striker at the club capable of spearheading the attack.

Personally, for the cup games at least, I’d like to see a 4-4-2 with Josi & Kalu playing together as I think the two would make a very effective partnership, but thus far Zico has shown little appetite for changing the formation that has worked pretty well most of the season.

Anyway, welcome back Josi, and hope to see you pulling on the hallowed orange & blue/black & grey/yellow & blue shirt at Ayutthaya next Wednesday.

 

 

Thailand Three; Kim Jong Nil

 

Thailand got their 2017 King’s Cup campaign off to the best possible start, cruising past a weakened North Korea side 3-0. A timely first half goal from Mongkol (11) opened the scoring, before Man of the Match Thitipan (8) made the win safe. The crowd went wild as Teeratep (14) marked his comeback to international football by adding one more from the spot in injury time.

Rather than write one of the usual play-by-play match reports, I thought it might be more interesting to go player-by-player, serving the dual purpose of reviewing the match and introducing you lot to some of the national team players you might not be familiar with.

 

Kawin Thamsatchanan (1, goalkeeper)

 

Were going to need a bigger armband…

 

Kawin is new boss Rajevac’s Captain, and he underlined his importance to the team with a typically authoritative performance, as well as a couple of crucial saves from long distance efforts. One late kick went dangerously astray, but Thailand were not punished. At just 27, Thailand should have many years ahead of them with the comfort of knowing Kawin is between the sticks.

 

Adisorn Promrak (5, right back)

23 year old Muangthong defender Adisorn’s inclusion was a head-scratcher for me. He is a very different kind of player from Tristan Do, who is missing the King’s Cup through injury. Whereas Do gets forward whenever possible to join the attack, Adisorn is essentially a centre back playing out of position, and he looks it whenever he gets the ball. With the exception of one foray forward on the break which nearly resulted in a goal, Adisorn defended competently, but didn’t do a lot else.

 

Pansa Henviboon (13, centre back)

Why has this guy not been in the team for years? Well, because he was playing bog-standard football with Chamchuri United, TOT and Khon Khaen, before being plucked from obscurity by Buriram this year. The tall, powerful centre back has since played himself in to the first team, and now the national team. I’ve only seen him in two games so far, but am very impressed. I’d pick him over every other Thai defender on current form. Pansa was solid throughout, and made a goal-saving challenge which he had to get absolutely right to avoid giving away a penalty.

 

Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4, centre back)

This defender from Nakhon Ratchasima is the other half of Rajevac’s newly promoted centre back pairing. At 30 years old, he is a late-comer to the national set-up, and hasn’t had the most distinguished career you’ve ever seen for an international footballer. Nevertheless, he looks solid and mistake-free. Again, I’ve only seen him a couple of times, and he has been outshone on his partner on both occasions, but he hasn’t put a foot wrong, so no complaints.

 

Peerapat Notchaiya (2, left back)

24 year old Peerapat is Theeraton’s erstwhile understudy at Muangthong and at international level. He probably is Thailand’s second best left-back, but to be honest that’s more of an indictment of the dearth of left-backs than praise of his abilities. The sooner Kevin Deeromran or Suriya Singmui kicks on and makes the place their own the better. To be fair to him, Peerapat got forward well and crossed smartly for Thitipan’s goal, but unfortunately that kind of end product is the exception rather than the rule.

 

Tanaboon Kesarat (17, centre midfield)

The most overrated player in Thai football showed once again that he is average at best in central midfield. He provided less in the way of cover and less going foward than his midfield partner, and was largely a passenger throughout the game, carried by the hard work of others and the profligacy of the opposition. Tanaboon needs to learn that being calm, composed and keeping possession is not enough in the international arena. The most inappropriately nicknamed player I’ve ever seen, the Thai Busquets wouldn’t recognize the dark arts if they put on an exhibition in his living room.

 

Thitipan Puangchan (8, centre midfield)

 

Thitipan (8) is congratulated by his teammates

 

After Thailand’s 1-1 draw with UAE, AC was unfortunate enough to listen to me ramble on for the rest of the evening about what an awesome midfield display Thitipan had put on. He was even better yesterday. Deserved Man of the Match, he put on the least Thai midfield display of all time, niggling, harassing and kicking every player on the pitch at least twice. He even found time to score a goal and win a penalty. Underappreciated and underused during his 5 years at Muangthong, Thitipan has had a new lease of life at Chiang Rai, and at just 23 is still improving. He worked his socks off yesterday, and should have been personally thanked by every player on his team for making their jobs’ easier.

 

Mongkol Tossakrai (11, right wing)

 

Mongkol celebrates his goal

 

This was a typical Mongkol performance if ever there was one. Provided nothing creative of note, but popped up in the box to get on the end of a Theeraton cross, turned well and buried his chance with aplomb. A reliable presence, and a scorer of important goals.

 

Theeraton Bunmathan (3, left wing)

New manager Rajevac seems to be using this tournament to experiment with playing Theeraton (known to his friends at Port as Heea Um) in a more advanced role. Usually a left wing back, yesterday Theeraton was nominally a left winger, but roamed all over the pitch in search of the ball. It kind of worked, and kind of didn’t. For me, so good is Theeraton’s left foot that it seems mad for him to be anywhere but on the left hand side whipping in crosses. I found myself frustrated when the ball made it’s way out there only to see Mongkol or Sanrawat cut in to no effect. I’m generally not a fan of this wing-switching nonsense when it’s used with one-footed players whose main purpose is crossing from their wing, like Pakorn or Theeraton. Still, in the absence of Chanathip, who will be the focal point of the attack when he returns, this was a worthwhile experiment from the new manager. Theeraton did get an assist, unsurprisingly a cross from the left hand side.

 

Sanrawat Dechmitr (10, forward)

How such a talented player who plays so well for his club can be so utterly useless at international level I have no idea. After picking Port to pieces when Bangkok United came to PAT Stadium, Sanrawat barely looked like a professional footballer yesterday. He miscontrolled the ball, misplaced passes and was generally a waste of space, and not for the first time in a Thailand shirt. Maybe he just doesn’t have the bottle for playing in front of a real crowd.

 

Adisak Kraisorn (9, striker)

This was a big opportunity for Adisak, who plays second fiddle to Teerasil for club and country, and he probably didn’t make the most of it. To his credit he worked hard, and the fact that he didn’t look like scoring is more down to the lack of service he received than anything he did wrong. Personally, I would think if you want to play a lot of hopeful balls down the channels, it would make more sense to go with Siroch than Adisak, but after Siroch’s last couple of performances and the season he’s had with Ubon, it’s understandable that Adisak got the nod.

 

Substitutes

 

Philip Roller and Siroch Chatthong

 

Siroch Chatthong (22, striker)

Siroch had a real stinker in the first half of the season with Ubon, scoring no goals, before being signed by Muangthong. Even off form, Siroch is always a threat, though. His physical style is exactly what Thailand need, and when he replaced Adisak he certainly gave the opposition defenders something different to think about. I’d start with him regardless of his goalscoring form.

 

Philip Roller (12, right back)

The 23 year old Thai-German right-back didn’t get much time on the pitch, but his recent performances for Ratchaburi suggest we will be seeing much more of him in the future. He will have a hard time dislodging Do from the team when he returns to fitness, though.

 

Teeratep Winothai (14, striker)

 

Teeratep celebrates his goal

 

Leesaw was also only on the pitch for a few minutes, but created the chance that led to the penalty, before dispatching it superbly in to the top corner. He has played over 50 games for Thailand, but fell out of favour in recent years. At Bangkok United, Mano Polking has really got the best out of Leesaw, and his new found maturity has revived a career that seemed to be on a downward slope. At 32, Leesaw could still make an important contribute to the national team, although he will almost certainly have to do that from the bench. His celebration is still annoying, though.

 

Final Countdown

With the earlier kick-off between Burkina Faso and Belarus ending 0-0, penalties settled the tie, and they couldn’t have been more decisive. Belarus put their first three in the back of the net, while Burkina Faso missed completely with 2 comical attempts, before the ‘keeper saved the third. Belarus looked like a solid, physical outfit from the little I saw of them, and should provide more of a test than the inexperienced mistake-prone North Koreans. The third place playoff between North Korea and Burkina Faso will be at 16:30 on Sunday, with the final between Thailand and Belarus kicking off at 19:00.

 

All Images by Changsuek

 

King’s Cup Kicks Off

 

With T1 bizarrely deciding to take a 3 week break to accommodate the King’s Cup, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the tournament which starts its 45th edition this afternoon.

The King’s Cup is a four team tournament which features semi-finals, a final and a third-place playoff. It has been held nearly every year since 1968, and features Thailand, plus three other invited teams. It’s not uncommon for teams to decline the invitation though, so often there are some rather unconventional participants. Take the 1981 tournament for example, which saw Thailand battle it out with the North Korean Army, August 1 (a Chinese side also known as The People’s Liberation Army Bayi Football Club) and Polonia Warsaw from the Polish third tier.

This edition of the King’s Cup was tipped by organizers to be the grandest yet, with invitations reportedly sent to Uruguay, France and the Czech Republic. Their ambitions have not quite been realized, however, and the three teams who eventually accepted their invitations were Burkina Faso, Belarus and North Korea. With ELO rankings (much more accurate than FIFA) of 54, 67, and 79 respectively, this would still be a considerable step up for Thailand – ranked at 111 – but Burkina Faso and Belarus have sent B teams, whilst North Korea have included a whole host of youngsters in place of their best players. Not quite the field the organizers had in mind, it must be said.

What may at first glance appear to be a random group of countries scattered across the globe is in-fact a group with more in common than you might think. Their leaders rather like power. Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea is well known to the world for his limitless power and his supposed lack of an anus (no, seriously), but Alexander Lukashenko – the President of Belarus – is less infamous despite having been in power for almost 24 years, and saying that Hitler wasn’t really that bad. Not only does he have an asshole, he is an asshole. Burkina Faso is in comparison a positive Utopia. The head honcho is Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who was elected President after a military coup in 2015. Then there are the hosts. No comment.

Reports that the 2018 King’s Cup is set to feature ISIS, The Imperial Storm troopers and Westboro Baptist Church are as yet unconfirmed. I would like to go on the record and say it’s very unlikely. They would never have organized it this far in advance.

The Cup will kick off this afternoon with Burkina Faso taking on Belarus at 16:30, and Thailand facing off with the North Koreans at 19:30. The finals and play-offs will be on Sunday. Thailand should fancy their chances against North Korea, who would be favourites at full strength, but with a host of youngsters are probably the underdogs. Despite missing superstars Teerasil and Chanathip, Thailand have a strong squad including exciting Thai-German debutant Phillip Roller and old favourite Teeratep Winothai, who has enjoyed a resurgence this season at Bangkok United.

I will be sure to keep you all up to date with proceedings, as it’s an international break and I’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Featured Image by AFP Getty Images