Groundhog Day: A situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way.
I had jokingly remarked to Dominick in The Sportsman prior to this game that, as I feared I may not have much time to write a report on Sunday owing to social commitments, I could just pen it beforehand, knowing full well what the outcome might be and then fill in the details later. Sadly, how right I was.
I had also remarked in my preview that Port’s propensity to shoot themselves in the foot (Latin: sagittam dirigens se in pedes) would pose a greater danger than any opponent and, once again, my words were unfortunately prophetic. Except that this was more than just a shooting; it was pedocide of the most violent kind. The nails were extracted by a rusty pair of pliers; the skin flayed with a blunt razor, the tarsals and phalanges reduced to a pulp by an industrial grinding machine, then the remains blended into a paste to be spread, with boot-clogging effect, over the sodden ground of Boonyachinda stadium.
Feet, particularly those of Pakorn’s (9), were to play a dramatic part in the opening half of this encounter, with results ranging from farce to tragedy. The footballing monk spent most of the half falling over before he was called to the touchline for a quick change of boots; the replacement pair mismatched and perhaps not just in colour, as his other most significant contribution to the half was to sweep a harmless cross into his own net with no one around to challenge for the ball. Given the position of his body in relation to the goal and the trajectory of the cross, it was no mean feat and one that he would be hard pressed to intentionally repeat at the other end of the pitch. As the English translation of the incident on the official Port website so eloquently reported, “Pakorn will kick the ball at the second pillar. But badly into the door.”
Quite what he was doing in the right-back position at the time was colourfully debated by the Sandpit in the stands; perhaps he was covering for another fruitless Nitipong (34) raid, but he had also ended up there last Sunday, so one has to ask whether it was another bewildering Zico ‘tactic’. Meditate on that, Brother. Aside from Pakorn’s ‘foot-feats’, Port had played a neat, tidy game, prompted by an excellent, disciplined performance by Siwakorn (16), without really threatening to turn spells of dominance into goals. Suarez, set free in the box by an intelligent lob from Piyachat (88), took just one step too many and was soon crowded out; a first time effort might have paid dividends. In another attack, Josimar (30) leapt, salmon-like, to meet a cross from the right but the ball’s arrival unfortunately coincided with his descent and another chance was squandered.
Just as we were debating at the start of the second half where a goal might come from, it did; Rochela (22) gleefully headed home a Pakorn corner via the post. This goal thoroughly revitalized Port who subsequently dominated large swathes of the half, working the ball in neat triangles, and making good use of the wings, but without delivering that telling final cross or top corner screamer. In probably the most wasteful moment, Josi again failed to connect accurately with a header with the goal at his mercy. He really is an enigma; he climbs well, although not always in sync with the ball, can make vital defensive headers and knock-ons but, for a ‘big man’, his headed cross conversion rate is poor.
With about fifteen minutes left there was some debate in the stands about whether, at this stage of the game, we would take a draw, and the general opinion was, NO, this was a game at our mercy; Police, even BEC Tero, were there for the taking. Which was true, but this is Port, and I would have been happy for the game to have ended there and then, given Port’s uncanny ability to suck you in and fill you with hope and dreams and then shatter your illusions, like finding Santa Claus in bed with your mum on Christmas morning.
Just as Tim’s last minute analysis, “Looks like Port are settling for a draw”, had fallen from his lips, the ball broke free from a slapstick collision between Nitipong and Dolah, sparking a rare Fire Dragons attack. Substitute Wichan Nantasri, who scored Police’s only goal at PAT Stadium, took the resulting loose ball around a flailing Worawut and calmly plonked it in the net. I really don’t know why we bothered to play the previous 93 minutes; they should have just set up that goal at the start and then we could all have got stuck into the ale. As always, the Port faithful remained loyal to the end, cheering their team, in spite of what seemed like a betrayal, and sportingly acclaiming the largely undeserving victors. What we would have given to have heard Tommy Duncan’s respectfully restrained appraisal of affairs right at that moment!
So what can you say? We have had our Groundhog Days all before, felt it all before, cursed about it all before, hoped it would change, all before. But, and this is the point: it probably won’t and we will be back on Wednesday night, a little bit more chastened, but ultimately forgiving. Because, for us die-hard Thai and Farang (foolish you might say) regulars, we still love it and we will keep coming back. It defies all logic but football has a logic all of its own; our devotion in inverse proportion to our suffering. See you in the Sandpit.
Man of the Match: Siwakorn; Men of the Match: The Port fans, as always.