Port travelled to Rangsit yesterday for a tricky away fixture at high-flying Bangkok Glass. Thanks to some tactical changes and excellent preparation, they came away with a well-earned 0-0 draw, riding their luck at times, scaring their opponents at others. This was the first game in which Zico really put his stamp on the team and augurs well for the rest of the 2017 season.
The Sandpit posse pitched up at the ever impressive Leo Stadium just before 5pm, leaving us a good two hours to
soak up the atmosphere, wander around the ground and chat to the home fans drink lots of beer – something Rabbits Bar make very easy with their competitively priced Leo towers. We also mingled with Glass’ farang fan club – a bloke called Tony. Wandering outside for a while to take some pictures, I found Importz Kenny & Achim consorting with the Glass bunny girls and looking very pleased with themselves.
We arrived in the away end to find the usual excellent beer service was still in place, and as such it would’ve been rude not to shower them with our money. Settled into our seats, we learned that Zico had made two very important team changes. Firstly – and he’s obviously been reading the Sandpit here – he dropped Panpanpong (19) and finally gave a debut to ex-Buriram youngster Yossawat (28). Secondly, he gave up trying to choose between two ageing defnsive midfielders – Ittipol (7) & Adisorn (13) – and instead gave a debut to the somewhat more youthful ex-Barbecue Utd midfielder Pummared (41), who had previously impressed me in friendlies.
The game started with Glass predictably dictating the pace, though the first chance fell to Port in the 9th minute when Pakorn (9) curled a free kick just wide of the post. Otherwise the next 20 minutes were one-way traffic with Glass laying siege to the Port goal, only some rather wayward shooting preventing them taking a deserved lead. Sandpit interviewee Matt Smith was the worst offender, ballooning a shot over the bar in the 27th minute with an open goal gaping, shortly followed by Campos whose angled shot went wide of the post when it would clearly have been easier to hit the target.
But it was in fact Port who came closest to scoring. In the 39th minute, Siwakorn (16) found himself in space on the edge of the Glass box and unleashed an absolute thunderbastard of a shot which beat the keeper but cannoned back off the crossbar. Minutes later, Pakorn found himself free on the left but opted to try and chip the keeper rather than pass.
Half time, 0-0, and a sense of relief that we’d made it to the break without conceding. The Port fans set about the half-time Leo with gusto and soon drank the bar dry. They’re clearly not used to dealing with big away crowds like this. Well, it has been two years since we last visited.
Port started the second half somewhat more brightly than the home side but had little more than a 59th minute curler from Suarez (5) to show for it, and soon found themselves on the back foot again. Thankfully Glass still hadn’t found their shooting boots, though in the 77th minute Worawut (36) was called upon to make a simply stunning save from a close-range header from Surachat. Minutes later, Pakorn curled another free kick just wide of the post, before the referee blew for full time to the considerable relief of the away fans.
There were some pathetic, embarrassing scenes after the final whistle as the Port players were joined on the pitch by the owner, management, coaches & sundry other hangers-on for a celebratory group picture in front of the fans. Most unbecoming for a proud club like Port to be celebrating a 0-0 draw in this way. We’re not Super Power or some T3 team celebrating a giant-killing; getting a point at Glass is a good result but that’s as far as it goes, and certain people at the club really need to have a look at themselves if they think this kind of behaviour is befitting.
Anyway, this was a very encouraging performance from Port. Zico had clearly done his homework on Glass and, whilst their quality meant they had plenty of chances, they didn’t boss the midfield the way they did in the home fixture and were generally restricted to long range shots. Yossawat is clearly a more defensive player than Panpanpong and whilst we missed the latter’s forward runs down the left, the defence felt a lot more secure with the youngster in it. Likewise, new boy Pummared was a cooler head in defensive midfield than Ittipol or Adisorn and his performance surely means we’ll be seeing more of him. Port chances were few & far between with Josimar playing much deeper than usual and Zico thankfully opting not to use Tana (99), though Wuttichai made a combative late appearance. All in all a very good point from a team that looks fitter, sharper and better organised than under Jadet. The Zico Revolution starts here.
Man of the Match – David Rochela (22)
I’ve said it before – Rochela is so consistently excellent that we take good performances from him for granted. But last night he was massive, particularly in the first half when playing without his trusted lieutenant Dolah (4). A typically disciplined, influential and occasionally backs-to-the-wall shift from the Port captain. Top marks also for Pakorn, Worawut, Siwakorn and Pummared who also impressed me.