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.