Friendly Fun in the Hua Hin Sun: Port FC 3-1 Chennaiyin FC

 

Port defeated Chennaiyin FC 3-1 in Wednesday’s friendly played in Hua Hin. Chennaiyin, coached by former Villa and Derby boss John Gregory, are playing six pre-season games in Thailand to prepare themselves for the up-coming ISL season. Port are in the middle of one of 2017’s numerous T1 mini-breaks, and will return to action against Super Power on November 8th.

 

 

Chennaiyin opted to start the game with their strongest XI, whereas Port went with their second string. The difference between the two sides were Chennaiyin’s foreign contingent, and the intensity at which their team played. Between their fearsome Brazilian centre-half Mailson Alves (27) and John Gregory on the touchline, there never seemed to be a moment where instructions weren’t being barked out. Gregory has clearly emphasised the importance of communication to his charges, and he practices what he preaches, delivering constant instruction as well as some wry critiques of his players’ performance. Being in ear-shot of the Englishman was one of the most entertaining aspects of a first half that offered very little for Port fans to get excited about, although a superb header from a particularly alert member of the ‘crowd’ also drew cheers from the Port bench. Unperturbed by the height on the wayward clearance, the spectator showed superb technique, cushioning his header directly into the path of Meechok, and keeping the game flowing. Admiring claps, and chants of ‘sign him up’ may have been in the spectator’s imagination!

Port went about their business quietly, looking decent at best in defence and midfield but lacking any cutting edge up front. Chennaiyin captain Inigo Calderon (14) and the aforementioned Alves were dominant in defence, with Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) unable to get anything at all out of them going forward. Dutch winger Gregory Nelson (7) also looked to be dominating Meechok (20), although the youngster stuck to his task and managed not to let the bigger, more powerful Nelson get on the scoresheet. It was no surprise when the visitors’ took the lead. It was their most impressive Indian player Jeje Lalpekhlua (12) who got on the end of a cross from the right, heading the ball back across Watchara (66) with authority and giving Chennaiyin a deserved advantage. Port created a couple of half chances, but never really threatened to break down their well-organized opposition.

 

This was not the XI that started the second half, but after a few more substitutions, this is what the team looked like.

 

Everything was to change in the second half, though. Both sides made numerous substitutions, with Port strengthening and Chennaiyin weakening. Chilean-Palestinian forward Jadue (we’re not sure about his number, as he was wearing a #22 shirt with Rochela’s name on it!) made a rare appearance up front, whilst first-teamers Suarez (5), Nitipong (34) and Pakorn (9) injected a bit more quality in to proceedings for Port. One of Jadue’s first actions in the second half was to let Alves know he wasn’t going to be as much of a pushover as Wuttichai and Tana. He made a late challenge on the Brazilian, sending him crashing to the turf, and invoking hysterical laughter from everyone’s favourite goalkeeping coach Milan Devic on the touchline. Devic proceeded to mutter to himself excitedly in Serbian, while Jadue braced himself for retribution. Fortunately for him, Alves was substituted shortly afterwards, and Port finally started to have some joy going forward.

 

 

It took a penalty to get Port back in to the game, and the Port bench were greatly amused by the fact that Jadue stepped up to take it, while sporting his Rochela shirt. Jadue hit his penalty firmly, but it went more or less straight at the ‘keeper, who will have been disappointed to have let it squirm past him. Not quite what El Capitan would have done!

Chennaiyin fought back, though, and soon had a penalty of their own. From our less-than-ideal vantage point, Pravinwat’s (55) tackle was very close to the edge of the area, but the referee adjudged that contact had been made inside. Devic once again sprung in to action, keenly watching goalkeeper Watchara as he prepared to face the spot-kick. Watchara dived to his left, got two strong hands behind the effort, then bounced straight back up to save the follow-up from point-blank range. Magnificent goalkeeping from Port’s third-choice stopper, who didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. Devic roared in celebration from the touchline, high-fiving everyone in sight. Watchara has done his chances of moving up the goalkeeping hierarchy no harm whatsoever.

After the penalty save, it was all Port. Chennaiyin were not playing at anywhere near the intensity of the first half, despite having an almost entirely fresh XI on the pitch. Even Gregory on the touchline was subdued, watching Suarez and Pakorn grab the game by the scruff of the neck and continually cause his rejigged defence problems. Pakorn hit the bar with a superb curling effort which the Chennaiyin goalkeeper did well to get his finger-tips to. He got his revenge on the ‘keeper, though. Anyone who has seen Pakorn take corners form the left knows that he likes to keep his opponents on their toes, and sure enough he embarrassed the Chennaiyin stopper by curling one in to the near post, catching everyone by surprise with yet another direct goal. Shouts of “Ronaldo” from the bench were well received by a grinning Midfield Monk!

Port’s third goal came relatively soon after, with Jadue breaking through the centre and hammering a left-footed effort in to the bottom corner from just inside the area. It was an excellent finish from the man who is clearly playing for a place in the squad in 2018, although we’re not sure that his overall performance merited two goals.

 

 

We were fortunate enough to watch the whole game from right next to the dug-outs, so after the game we were able to have a chat with a few of the staff from both sides. John Gregory was particularly accommodating, having a lengthy chat with us about all things Chennaiyin. Here are some of his comments.

 

 

The Sandpit: What did you think about the game?

John Gregory: “You’re lucky we took our best players off!”

TS: Your team did play very well in the first half. Very intense!

JG: “That was more or less my First XI. This is only their second pre-season game, so I expect more from them in the coming weeks.

TS: Were you particularly impressed with any Port players?

JG: “I don’t watch the opposition when we play friendlies, I’m completely focused on my own players.”

TS: We could see that! Your club is part-owned by an actor and a cricketer, how do you get on with them?

JG: “And a businesswoman! [Bollywood actor] Abhishek Bachchan, [cricketer] MS Dhoni and [businesswoman] Vita Dani are all fantastic to deal with. I have 100% autonomy over transfers and team management.

TS: Chennaiyin is a very young club, isn’t it?

JG: “We were only founded in 2014, but the club has an excellent philosophy for the future. The owners would rather spend money on developing the grass-roots than go out and get a big-name marquee player. The club is certainly moving in the right direction.”

Thanks to John for chatting with us, and good luck with the upcoming ISL season!

 

 

We were also lucky enough to have our picture taken with coach Jadet, and have a chat with Port fitness Coach Rod Pellegrino. The Brazilian came out with the quote of the evening when we asked him about the up-coming game with Super Power, saying “We must take the game very seriously. We are like the Robin Hood of Thai football”. We couldn’t agree more, Rod! We also asked El Capitan why he and Josimar didn’t feature, and he responded “We’ve played many times this season, so it’s good to have a rest.” Are you staying with us next season, David? Are you?! “I don’t know. Nobody knows.”

You tease, you…

 

Margraves of the Marshes: Port FC 1-1 Muangthong Utd

 

When I bumped into Port FC defender Elias Dolah at a photography event on Wednesday night, he told me (amongst other things) that he was hoping that large amounts of rain would fall on the hallowed turf of the PAT prior to yesterday’s game, as it might prove something of a leveller. The big Swede got his wish, as by kick-off the pitch looked like something out of a Wilfred Owen poem, and the preening ponces of Muangthong didn’t like it one little bit.

Port lined up in the time-honoured Jadet 4-5-1, Todsapol (6) keeping his place after his excellent performance against the Swatcats last week, and Adisorn (13) holding onto the DM spot. With the match being played behind closed doors after trouble followed the usual less than warm SCG welcome last October, the Sandpit posse (and a smattering of Muangthong fans who probably regretted it) took over the Sportsman’s Live Lounge for the game.

As usual when facing more fancied opposition, Port tore into their opponents from the whistle and dominated the early exchanges. Siwakorn (16), Suarez (5) and Adisorn were giving MTU’s midfielders no time on the ball whatsoever, with Chappuis – surely the most overrated player in Thai football – constantly harried and not enjoying himself at all.

The first of many Port chances came in the 4th minute when a sublime Suarez through-ball found Josimar (30) alone in the box, but the big Brazilian was (incorrectly) ruled offside by a referee whose incompetence would later hurt Port much more gravely. Two minutes later a Genki (18) shot took a deflection and almost looped over Kawin into the net. And soon after that Suarez almost gave Port the lead from a goalmouth scramble but could only find the legs of Kawin.

MTU were still dangerous on the break though and in the 8th minute a low drive from Leandro Assumpcao brought a smart save from Port keeper Rattanai (17). With Muangthong’s other forwards either having an off day (Heberty), pussying out due to the conditions (Theerasil) or just being out of their depth in T1 (Siroch), Assumpcao was pretty much their only threat and showed why MTU made their surprise mid-season move for him.

 

“Shiiiiiit on the Muangthong…”

 

Port’s own Brazilian netbuster Josi was having a lively game and on 25 minutes he stung Kawin’s palms with a fierce 20-yard shot after a run from deep in midfield. And just before half-time Port had another great chance when a corner was headed back to Pakorn (9) by Genki, and the midfield monk hit a cracking volley just over the MTU bar.

So 0-0 at half-time, and MTU would’ve been glad to get away from the mud and from Port’s tigerish midfielders. But their respite was brief, with Port starting the second half as they’d finished it. Suarez had the first chance of the half, finding space on the edge of the box but sending his drive way over the bar. But on 62 minutes Port finally broke the deadlock, when Rochela (22) flicked on a Pakorn corner and Josi pounced. His initial shot looked over the line when it was parried by Kawin, but he made no mistake with the rebound and scored his 17th goal of the season to give Port a much-deserved lead and spark wild scenes of celebration at The Sportsman.

Our joy only lasted 3 minutes however, as MTU brought on Tristan Do and got straight back into the game when the wee Frenchman put in a peach of a cross. Assumpcao clearly pushed Todsapol before scoring but the referee ignored Port’s vehement protests and it was 1-1. It almost got worse for Port in the 80th minute when Adisak had a point-blank shot but fortunately it cannoned back off Rattanai’s post.

Port were not disheartened though and had the best of the remaining 10 minutes, the highlights being a rasping volley from Pakorn which was acrobatically blocked by the ever-excellent Kawin, and a thunderbastard of a drive from Nitipong (34) which was again saved by the big MTU stopper.

So 1-1 it finished, and whilst taking 4 points from The Scum (and pretty much ending their title chances) is obviously a wonderful thing, this was a game that Port deserved to win and only some incompetent refereeing prevented us taking the 3 points. Nevertheless this was one of Port’s best performances of the season, with the players showing the same spirit and intensity that took them to the heights of 5th place earlier in the year. There were excellent performances throughout the team, most notably in midfield where Adisorn, Suarez (who clearly likes the mud) and the brilliant Siwakorn dominated. Pakorn and Josi caused no end of trouble for MTU’s defenders, whilst Nitipong, Todsapol and Rochela all put in defiant shifts at the back, with Rattanai unbeatable on the rare occasions they let MTU’s misfiring forwards get a shot in. With games to come against whipping boys Super Power and Sisaket,  that top-half finish looks eminently achievable, and a season that looked in danger of fizzling out under Zico has been somewhat revived.

 

Man of the Match: Siwakorn

Absolutely no contest here. Despite not weighing much more than my lunch, the Thin White Duke threw himself into MTU’s much-vaunted midfield and, despite picking up an early booking (his 12th of the season), didn’t let up for the entire game. He continues to put bigger, more talented players to shame and when Port players we talk to consistently tell us that he is the club’s best player, this is the kind of performance they’re talking about. An absolutely stellar show from the wee fella.

 

Slum vs. Scum: Port FC vs. Muangthong United, 22 October 2017

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: FANS ARE BANNED FROM ATTENDING

Due to last season’s shenanigans, fans from both sides are not allowed to attend Sunday’s clash. As of Wednesday when this was written, there has been no word of big screens or anywhere that all fans will be convening to watch Port take on their biggest rivals. What we can tell you, is that The Sandpit, and a fairly substantial group of fans, will be spending our Sunday afternoon shouting at one of The Sportsman’s big screens instead. Join us and get 10% off regular prices, and an atmosphere as hostile to the Muangscum as Zone B itself!

 


 

Port will ‘welcome’ SCG Muangthong to a boggy PAT Stadium on Sunday, looking to strike a final and decisive blow in the War Of Heroes. Port have already condemned The Dream Team to one stunning defeat this season, when Suarez’ majestic header and Josimar’s volleyed brace in front of the Yamaha Ultras Stand were just enough to hold off a Fight Back by Kirin United. Sick of the gaudy corporate slogans yet? Here, have some Leo. It might wash it off.

No, wait…

 

Motherfuckers! Is nothing sacrosanct?

Muangthong face a 9 point deficit to Buriram, although they have a game in hand after their clash with Honda last week was rained off. With just 12 more points available, a Muangthong defeat against Port and a victory for Buriram at Suphanburi would send the title to the Thunder Castle, as Muangthong’s inferior head to head record with Buriram mean they lose out if the sides finish level on points.

Now, there’s some motivation if ever Port needed it!

 

Muangthong United

Players to Watch

 

Alright, I give up. I can’t pick my usual 4 or 5 players, so this is basically the whole team. Hold your noses!

 

The Defence

Legendary stopper Kawin Thamsatchanan (1) will of course start in goal, with the reliable Japanese veteran Naoaki Aoyama (5) and Brazilian man-mountain Celio Santos (29) in central defence. If Muangthong go for a back three then they will be joined by Adisorn Promrak (5), with regular full-backs Peerapat Notchaiya (2, the rubbish one on the left) and Tristan Do (19, the good one on the right who all the Port fans hate because he’s a tough little so-and-so) playing a little higher up the pitch.

 

Aoyama and Celio

 

The Midfield

With all the options available to Muangthong, it’s difficult to say who will get the nod on Sunday, although Charyl Chappuis (23) will very likely start in attacking midfield. Muangthong have been reshuffling their pack quite a bit of late, and the Thai-Swiss heartthrob seems to be one of the beneficiaries, playing in a more advanced role. He showed superb awareness and touch to lay on the opening goal in Muangthong’s 2-0 victory at Buriram a couple of weeks back.

One man who has been utilized in central midfield quite a few times by club and country this season is the man well known to Port fans, although more often not by his real name Theerathon Bunmathan (3), but rather by – shall we say – his pet name. Yep, it’s Hia Um. I really hope Muangthong persist with the experiment, as it’s been a load of rubbish as far as I can tell. Hia Um is probably the best crosser of the ball in the league, so the idea of playing him in central midfield where he seldom has opportunities to cross the ball is utter nonsense. In the first half of the season, Hia Um racked up an outrageous 7 goals and 11 assists from left back and occasionally left midfield, but since Rajevac moved him in to the centre of the national team midfield, copycat-in-chief Totchtawan Sripan has followed suit to the tune of zero goals or assists in Hia Um’s last 9 league games. I’m cheating a bit to be fair, as he didn’t play centre midfield in all of those games, and to his credit, Hia Um did bag the final goal in the league cup victory against Buriram with a superb finish. Buuut let’s forget about that and assume he’s going to be rubbish. He normally is against Port, anyway!

It’s worth briefly mentioning that Sarach Yooyen (6) has just returned from injury, and could play a part. While being injured, the Thai national team regular has been frequently linked with Port, but as I said at the time, there’s very little chance of that happening, as once he’s 100% fit Sarach should just slot back in to the team with Wattana (34) or Thossawat (8) losing their place.

 

I can do photoshop, me!

 

The Attack

Just let these figures sink in for a moment. Since joining Muangthong mid-season, former Sisaket forward Leandro Assumpcao (77) has scored 13 goals in 13 starts in all competitions. Having joined at the same time, his compatriot Heberty Fernandes (7) has 15 in 13 starts, including 10 in his last 6 league games. The comparative slouch in Muangthong’s front three is Thai superstar Teerasil Dangda (10) who has 13 goals in 26 games, and has also turned creator for a further 13. Remember when we only conceded 2 against them last time out? Well, 2 of these 3 weren’t there at the time. Good luck, chaps…

 

Leandro, Heberty and Teerasil

 

Form

After an absolutely calamitous collapse in the back half of May that saw Muangthong go down to the three promoted teams in succession, they haven’t lost in the league since. That’s 9 wins and 4 draws. They’ve secured 5 wins and 1 draw in their last 6 outings, with 24 goals scored and 6 conceded.

Port are not in quite such strong form, although Jadet has a 100% winning record in the league since replacing Zico, with 2 wins from 2. The last 6 games also include 2 draws and 2 losses, but the less said about the Zico era the better!

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

Well, I went through all of their mob, so I may as well do the same with ours.

It will be interesting to see if Jadet puts Dolah (4) straight back in to the starting XI, or if Todsapol (6) keeps his place at the back. With Muangthong’s forward line being more mobile than it is tall, Todsapol could be a wise choice, although with Celio coming forward for set-pieces we may yet miss Dolah’s physical presence if he’s not there. Whoever is picked will of course be partnered by Rochela (22), with Panpanpong (19) and Nitipong (34) likely to continue as full-backs. Rattanai (17) made an impressive return to action last week, and should keep his place in goal, despite Paulo Rangel’s despicable attempt to injure him.

Adisorn (13) seems to have fought his way back in to the first XI with another feisty performance in defensive midfield against Nakhon Ratchasima. This sort of game, against more glamorous opposition in swampy conditions is just where you would expect Adisorn to shine alongside Siwakorn (16) in the Port engine room.

Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) will occupy their usual places on the wings, with Suarez (5) and Josimar (30) up front. Both the Spaniard and the Brazilian are in fine form, with Suarez having scored 2 in his last 3, as well as providing 3 assists, whilst Josi has bagged 4 goals in his last 3. The pair were responsible for Port’s 3 goals at the SCG, so will not be underestimated by Celio (29) and Aoyama (5) this time round.

 

Predicted Starting XI

 

 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sport HD at 17:45 on Sunday 22 October, 2017. Remember everyone, FANS ARE BANNED FROM ATTENDING, so The Sandpit will be convening in The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 for happy hour beers, where the match will be shown on a big screen with sound. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount while you’re there!

 

Rampant Lions Pound Wet Pussies: Port FC 3-1 Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

After yet another paws for international matches, the Lions & the Swatcats convened at the PAT for a T1 catfight. With both teams still facing, albeit distantly, the spectre of relegation, I had the feline it would be a tight game – would Korat go fur it, or park the puss? During a pre-match Twitter chat with Cap’n Rochela, he predicted that the wet, muddy conditions wouldn’t make for good football, so mewl be surprised to learn that, despite the far from purr-fect pitch, it was actually a very entertaining and eventful game. Here’s my re-paw-t.

 


 

Port started the game with the classic Jadet 4-5-1 lineup, with the only changes coming in defence where Rattanai (17) returned in place of Worawut, and Todsapol (6) came in for the suspended Dolah, two changes I’d like to see made permanent as both players give Port’s defence a much more solid look.

There was also a familiar face in the Korat lineup, with our old friend, the Comedy Keeper himself, Weera Duckworth returning to the PAT to delight the crowd with his slapstick antics.

The game began in lively fashion, with both teams doing their best to play good football despite the pitch resembling a litter tray. But it was Port who looked the most likely to score, with Suarez (5) shooting narrowly wide on 15 minutes, closely followed by Pakorn (9) curling a free-kick into the arms of Weera Duckworth a couple of minutes later, and Josimar (30) hitting a disappointingly tame shot into the former Rovers Return landlady’s grateful arms after being released by a lovely Siwakorn through-ball. Korat too had their chances, with Rattanai making a smart one-handed save from a rasping drive by Chanatphon (22).

The deadlock was finally broken in the 38th minute. A Panpanpong (19) cross from the left found Josi, but for reasons best known to himself the big Brazilian headed the ball down rather than into the net, allowing Duckworth to make a save. However, in the resulting melee, Suarez was deemed to have been barged over by a defender and, to much hissing and spitting from the Swatcats – which, having just seen it on video, was entirely justified – the ref pointed to the spot, and, as per usual, Rochela (22) buried it in the old bolso de cebolla for 1-0.

Korat were further aggrieved 4 minutes later when Suarez again, and Ekkachai (20) clashed in the box, with the latter going down rather spectacularly. Too spectacularly for the ref’s liking – he gave the Korat player a yellow for simulation which, given that he’d been booked earlier in the game, meant an early bath. It was a little harsh as it was no more or less a penalty than the one given to Port minutes earlier, but given the number of harsh penalties given against us this season we weren’t complaining.

There was another somewhat unsavoury incident just before the break. Rattanai dived for the ball at the feet of Brazilian striker and serial irritant Paulo Rangel (9) and as the latter jumped over him, he deliberately stamped on the young keeper’s leg. The referee and his assistant may not have seen it but all of us in Zone B did, and proceeded to inform Rangel of our displeasure at his ungentlemanly conduct.

The rain began to fall again at half-time making the pitch even more slippery, but it didn’t stop Port who were 2-0 up within a couple of minutes at the restart. I’d just succeeded in smuggling a can of Leo past the less than attentive Zone B stewards when I noticed Suarez bursting into the Korat box. His chipped cross to the far post was fumbled by Weera Duckworth right onto the feet of Josi, who hammered it home from 2 yards to double Port’s lead. And two minutes later it was nearly 3, when an absolute thunderbastard from Pakorn was tipped over the bar by the much-loved former Coronation Street star (RIP). Josi was next to come close on 55 minutes when his near-perfect header from a Panpanpong cross beat Duckworth but came back off the post.

On the hour mark, Jim & myself were busy discussing Rangel’s shortcomings as a human being when who should get on the end of a Korat free-kick to nod it past Rattanai, but Rangel himself. It was the kind of confused defending (Rangel being marked not by a central defender but by Josi & Panpanpong) that has let Port down on so many occasions this season, and with the Swatcats’ tails now up, it looked like Operation Fuckup was once again underway.

Rangel came close in the 70th minute, with his shot being turned wide by the excellent Rattanai, but 4 minutes later it was pretty much game over, when a superb inswinging corner from Pakorn was bundled in off Suarez’s shoulder, the Spaniard showing the kind of desire to get on the end of corners that has been absent from his – and the team’s – game most of the season.

There was time for some late drama, with Korat being reduced to 9 men in injury time after a shocking tackle from behind left Nitipong (34) in a crumpled heap, before the referee finally blew the whistle.

One of Port’s better performances this, with the team looking energetic and committed after the recent limp cup exits. More importantly, the 3 points guarantee Port’s T1 status next season and the team can now enjoy the rest of 2017 without pressure, starting with next Sunday when we have a chance to effectively end Muangthong’s title hopes. Come on boys, you know what to do.

 

Man of the Match – Sergio Suarez

What’s this? Tim giving Suarez MOTM? Well, it’s true. There were several good performances from Port, notably Rochela, Rattanai and Adisorn, but the Spaniard gets the nod this week. Clearly revelling in the muddy conditions, he was at the heart of everything Port did, winning the penalty for the first goal, setting up Josi for the second, and scoring the third. It was a skilful, hard-working performance which earned him a warm ovation when he was substituted. And as ever, it begs the question – when he can play like this, why the hell doesn’t he do it more often?

 

Cat Fight! Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC, 14 October 2017

 

Port’s penultimate home game of 2017 (that we’re allowed to go to, anyway) is an all-feline duel with the Korat Swatcats. Both sides appeared to have retracted their claws and enjoyed a good long nap when Port traveled up to Nakhon Ratchasima, but with any luck the claws will be back out in the Lion’s Den. Port could once again break in to the hallowed Top 9 with a win, whilst a loss would see Korat slink past them in the table.

 

Korat FC

Players to Watch

 

Korat’s star of the second half of the season has undoubtedly been new arrival Paulo Rangel (9). He’s been positively purring! Some of you may remember Rangel from his 2012-13 stint with Muangthong, when he knocked in 12 goals in 24 games. Well, Rangel has already equaled his total from that season, knocking in 12 goals in just 14 games since his arrival in Nakhon Ratchasima. He’s done it in a team that had been chronically struggling to find the net before his arrival, too. The Brazilian stands at an imposing 6 foot 2, and will be relishing the chance to pick on Port’s smaller back line in the absence of suspended Elias Dolah (4).

Rangel’s partner in crime will be the rather more diminutive Dominic Adiyiah (10). Whether or not Dominic starts up front or on the wing, Korat’s main threat will likely come from the link-up play between these two. Dominic was probably more thrilled than anyone at the arrival of a big man he can play off, and the stats bear this out. He found the net just twice as a lone striker in the first half of the season, but has bagged five since Rangel arrived.

 

Rangel and Dominic

 

Korat have had a solid back line in 2017, so it’s unsurprising that the two main men at the back look rather useful. Captain Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4) has been at the club from 2014, but it took him until this season at the age of 30 to finally break in to the Thai national team, where new coach Rajevac has put him straight in to the starting XI. I haven’t seen much of him for Korat, but have been impressed with him at international level. He’s not the most eye-catching defender in the world, but is solid, dependable and rarely puts a foot wrong.

His fellow centre half is Indonesian-Nigerian Victor Igbonefo (15). Victor has played every single minute for which he’s been available in 2017, missing just one game due to suspension. He’s the taller and stronger of the two, and can be a nuisance in the opposition area too, as he showed by bagging the winner with a towering header against Thai Honda in Korat’s last outing. The Swatcats’ final foreign player is midfielder Antonio Pina (27), who is suspended having picked up his fourth yellow card against Honda.

 

Victor and Chalermpong

 

ROFLMAO Player to Watch

 

Yes, the rumours are true. He’s back. Port’s former parody of a goalkeeper Weera Koedpudsa (1) was released mid-season, when he was presumably expected to end up as third choice in T4. Alas no, Weera went straight in to the Korat first team, where his arrival has shockingly coincided with a dip in defensive form. Who’da thunk it? The first half of the season saw Korat shut out their opponents an impressive 7 times, conceding an average of 1.1 goals per game. Since Weera arrived, he has kept 2 clean sheets, and has conceded an average of 1.6 goals per game. That’s the excuse for a professional footballer we know and love!

Shoot on sight, lads. Shoot. On . Sight.

 

Stop! Clanger time…

 

Form Guide

 

Korat aren’t in particular stellar league form, but then you don’t have be if you’re playing Port at the moment. Korat have won two, drawn two and lost two in their last six. The wins came against soon-to-be relegated Honda and Sisaket, the draws against Navy and Suphanburi and the losses to Ratchaburi and Bangkok United. Port on the other hand have just the one win, two draws and three losses. And that’s not counting the Cups! The win came in Jadet’s triumphant return away at Pattaya, the draws were with Bangkok Glass and Sukothai, and the losses to Chonburi, Police Tero and Chiang Rai. As if you needed reminding!

 

Port FC

Dolah-less

 

The main team-news is that Dolah (4) will miss out after picking up his 8th yellow card, thanks to some farcical diving by Pattaya. This means the Rochela (22) midfield experiment will have to take a back seat for now, with El Capitan and Todsapol (6) hopefully reviving last season’s rather useful partnership in the centre of defense. Useful by Port standards, anyway.

Pakorn (9) is set to return to the starting XI after recovering from his injury quicker than expected, meaning that Nitipong (34) should drop back to right back while Meechok (20) will once again return to the bench after his excursions with the Thai under 20s during the break. Speaking of Port defenders on international duty, Yossawat’s run-out for the under 23s once again raises the question ‘why the hell doesn’t he ever play for us?!’ We know he’s fit now, and with Panpanpong (19) returning to Bangkok United at the end of his loan spell soon, it must be about time to give young Yossa some game time.

As usual, defensive midfield is anyone’s guess, with my hunch being that Jadet favourite Adisorn (13) will get the nod ahead of Pummared (41). The transfer window can’t come soon enough!

 

Predicted XI

 

 

 

The Russ Report

 

Thanks to Korat fan Russ John – the man behind the excellent Swatcat Blog – who has kindly sent us this to add on to our preview.

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea but the poor old Owl drowned and the pussycat docked at Port.

In this mid to lower table encounter on which nothing depends, maybe both sides will let their hair down and let it all hang out – or maybe (and thankfully) they will all keep their shorts on!!

Seriously I see two sides that have arguably underachieved this season. Swatcats however have been consistently mediocre – stand out and only decent performance Chonburi at home 5-2 (sorry Dale) whereas at least Port, in an up and down season, have shown on occasions, that they can mix it with the best.

The departure of Zico saw a bump at Patters but disappointing cup results have blunted Port’s end of season aspirations. One has to ask which Port will take on the Swatcats, the Port whose attacking prowess destroyed Pattaya or the Port whose pitiful defending has cost the team places in two cup draws.

Port must beware of giving too much room to Adiyiah. If he is allowed to get crosses in, Paulo Rangel will be lurking in the box – and Port fans watch out for Pina’s dead ball skills, he hits a mean free kick – anything up to 30 yards and he’ll trouble the keeper. [Ed – not from the bench he won’t!]

Only regular Port fans will know why their team has lacked consistency in a season where emotions have ranged from sky high to as low as a snakes belly. As an outsider however I do wonder whether too many changes too soon in search of instant glory have been the wrong strategy and ultimately could be a recipe for disaster.

All things considered, mid table or thereabouts is no mean feat for a promoted side – next season with 5 down might represent a real challenge.

My money is either a draw either a 0-0 or a high scoring draw. It doesn’t take much to beat the current Swatcat team but Port can be vulnerable at home. The Swatcat’s defence is weak, especially down the flanks so there could be a goals bonanza.

So 4-4 is my prediction and a real goal fest for the Klong Toey Army and the visiting fans from Korat.

 

The match will be shown live on True Spark Jump at 18:00 on Saturday 14 October, 2017. For those who can’t make it to the stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount while you’re at it!

 

The Agent’s Story: The Sandpit Meets Benni Lohwasser

 

A few minutes into my chat with football agent Benni Lohwasser from FPS Management & Consulting, he reveals that, in his early days in Thailand, he once played for Port FC as a triallist. Yes, the man sitting opposite me once donned the hallowed orange & blue, albeit in a friendly, which of course only helps me warm to him even more. An energetic, outgoing German, Benni looks after operations in Asia & South America for Fair Play Sports (FPS), a sports agency with offices worldwide and who represent a number of players in Thailand including Buriram goal machine Jaja Coelho, Buriram midfielder Ko Seul Ki , Thai national stars such as Thitiphan and Sarach Yooyen, and our own Josimar Rodrigues. He also assisted Chanathip on his recent move to Japan.

I sat down for a chat with Benni to get the inside story on what it’s like managing players and dealing with club owners in Thailand. It was fascinating to learn about the experiences of a farang working at the heart of the Thai game….

 


 

Firstly, tell us how (and why) you became a football agent, and ended up here in Thailand…

I played football in the German 3rd division then moved over to Thailand 12 years ago. I had a few trials and played a few friendly games for Osotspa – and Thai Port! Couldn’t do it, I don’t know why, so I moved over to Indonesia for six months, then came back to Thailand and met my wife.

I had football connections in Germany, in Europe and Asia, so we opened an FPS office in Germany with a well known German agent first, then Singapore, and now we have become a global agency with a total of five offices. We look after some big players in Germany including Andre Schuerrle, and Stefan Bell who is captain of Mainz 05 and of course now several players here in Thailand and the region.

 

What makes Thai football attractive to agents and foreign players?

The lifestyle. It’s an easy life for players and their families, with nice weather and friendly people. And it’s not a secret – the money! Some of the players get double the salary they’d get in Europe or South America. That’s the main reason.

 

In your view, how about the state of Thai football – is it going forwards or backwards?

If you look at the quality of Thai players, it’s going forward, but in terms of the league, it’s not growing. It’s growing financially, but at the moment it’s stuck. One of the big problems is the long breaks for the national team. That is a big, big problem for the players and the supporters – they don’t know what’s going on and sometimes not even when is the next game. It’s just ridiculous. In Europe we have a FIFA rule on how long clubs have to release international players, so I don’t know why the league can’t do that here. Imagine, you have to keep the players happy, especially the foreign players. You also cannot just send them for vacation every time, because they need to keep focused and also stay in shape, so it is tough for players, coaches and team owners.

 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in handling players & clubs in Thai football?

At first when I came here the clubs didn’t see agents as partners, we had the feeling that they were scared of us. In Europe it’s different – no clubs sign players without an agent and they see the agent as a partner, as a help. That was a big problem at the beginning, but now it’s becoming more professional. The clubs we deal with, they understand, they take our advice, and now we are trying to explain to them that they need to fly out sometimes to watch games, to watch players before they buy them. Anybody can look good on a highlights video! The clubs have also the chance to buy scouting systems for a couple of thousand dollars a year where you can watch players for whole games and all their statistics before you buy them, so you’re 100% secure. Before we had the feeling some clubs would buy players without even seeing them. We try to bring quality players, we don’t bring in any player just to make money. We bring in players to make success for both players and clubs and that is working – look at Jaja and Ko at Buriram for example.

 

Benni’s finest hour – playing in the hallowed Port FC shirt

 

You handle many Thai players too. What are the differences between Thai & foreign players?

A foreign player who comes to Thailand has been transferred previously a few times, so he knows the process and what he has to be aware of. For Thai players, it’s different – the important thing is trust. Doy (Nonsrichai) from Tero, a long time friend of mine, has joined FPS now and will start at the end of the season with us. He’s well known in Thailand, everybody respects him and the players have confidence in him. You have to make Thai players understand what a contract is – the clauses, the details and the possibilities they have. Now they start to understand also the financial situation better, plus the options that they can go to other Asian countries now – before the clubs blocked it and stopped other clubs talking to their players , because the clubs from abroad did not know who to contact.

 

Why don’t European players do so well in Thailand?

I think it’s the professionalism. For example, I just spoke to one European player last week who is playing here, earning twice what he was earning in Europe, but he is thinking of moving back to Europe because he can’t handle it here any more! He wants to win even in training, if his team loses he’s sad, but the Thai players, if they lose, they are still kind of happy, at least they look happy – it’s a different mentality and he understands, which is also why we like the country, but for foreign players who are new here, it is difficult to understand and accept it. And for the players, if they move to Thailand, they are aware that their career in Europe is pretty much finished. So only older players can be convinced to move here, late 20s or over 30s. Players in their mid-20s still want to succeed in Europe and are difficult to approach.

 

FPS recently assisted Thailand’s star player Chanathip (although you are not his direct agent), and secured him a move to Japan. How far do you think he can go in his career?

Clubs in Europe are watching him and we want to see him there in the future – against Australia, he was up against Mile Jedinak, and he was massive, Jedinak couldn’t handle and follow him. He can do it, he has a different mentality to other players – he’s very focused on football. He does his thing, in Japan he’s unbelievable, nobody thought he’d be so successful, but he makes the country proud.

 

Is Chanathip’s move a one-off or is there growing interest internationally in Thai players? What options exist for them beyond Thailand?

We had calls already from Europe about Thai players. The interest is there. And Japan also – they have the ASEAN rule there too so they will take a few more in the future we believe. But we also understand it’s difficult for Thai players to go abroad – the lifestyle, the mentality, the training, the physicality, many things must be considered.

 

Next year the rules on foreign players change from 4+1 to 3+1+1, with the additional 1 being ASEAN. Do you think this is a positive or negative step?

Does it make sense? Thailand is the best national team in the region so for me it makes no sense. You’re blocking young Thai players from their first team to bring in ASEAN players (even if it is only one), for what? I don’t see any top players from Indonesia or Malaysia who are better than Thai players. And the money for local players in Malaysia for example is amazing, so there’s no reason for them to come here. We’re looking at players from ASEAN but we know what the clubs in Thailand need so I’m not pushing these players, we’d rather push the Thai players. And reducing the number of international foreigners to 3 is a bad thing, in terms of the quality of the league.

 

Finally, looking at our own club Port FC, I have to say personally our recruitment this season has been pretty catastrophic, particularly during the June window. Looking at our squad, what do you think needs to change for 2018, and how can clubs with smaller budgets like ours remain competitive against the likes of Buriram, Muangthong, Chiang Rai etc.

If you look at the top 4-5 teams in Thailand, they play with a foreign defender. They play with an Asian defensive midfielder who clears everything, and this is the key role here in Thailand – if you look at Buriram, Jaja or Diogo are important to win games, but it’s Go Seul-Ki who is the key in my opinion, and Port haven’t had a player like that for a few years. And you need a good attacking line up – Josi is doing well scoring goals but he should get more support. The Thai players at Port are good, nothing to change. Smaller clubs can get good players but it’s about trust – who’s buying players, who’s paying the players, who’s the agent, who do they trust.

 


Big thanks to Benni for taking the time to answer our questions. You can find out more about FPS at http://fps-management-consulting.com/en/.

 

Knotted Hankies & Dead Rubbers

 

To paraphrase that keen observer of Thai football Oscar Wilde, “To lose one cup match may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.” And so in the space of five half-arsed, lacklustre days, Port exited both domestic cup competitions on their knees, unable to blame tiredness or fixture congestion, or anything other than their Bangkok Utd inferiority complex and their chronic inability to close out games against inferior opposition. When Kayne Vincent is scoring against you, you know things just ain’t right.

Seen from a distance, Port’s season doesn’t look too bad, and if you’d told any of us back in February that we’d be safe with five games still to play and that we’d win at the SCG, I think we’d all have taken that. But of course that doesn’t tell the true story, which is of a team playing intense, committed, high-energy football and punching above their weight to garner 29 points in the first half of the season, only to be let down by a calamitous transfer window, a pointless managerial change, a bizarre attitude towards young (and old) players, and a startling ability on the part of the players to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. More of that in our end of season reviews of course, but being a Port fan is rather like being married to an abusive alcoholic – they convince you they’ve changed, that they’re off the bottle, and things go well for a while, until suddenly they crack, go out and drink ten pints of Stella and a bottle of Smirnoff, then come home and do unacceptable things such as knocking you about, shitting the bed, and playing Tana on the left.

So, with the cups done & dusted, and Port safe from the drop, the remaining five games of the season are effectively dead rubbers, though Muangthong still have something to play for (in a fixture we’re not allowed to attend) and Sisaket may still have a chance of survival when they come to the PAT. The performances against Bangkok Utd and Air Force suggest that many of the players have already mentally put on the flipflops and knotted hankies, with some planning their next moves and others planning for life after football. So what can we expect in the remaining games?

It was the club’s stated ambition at the start of the season to finish in the top half of T1, and with only a point separating Port from 9th-placed Pattaya, and 15 points still to play for, that is eminently achievable, particularly with home games against struggling Nakhon Ratchasima and Sisaket and an away game at whipping boys Super Power to come. Though let’s face it, I’m sure Super Power are targeting that game as their most likely source of a sole win this season, and as someone who has still never seen Port win an away league game, I’m relieved that I’ll be out of the country and thus unable to put the Russell jinx on the team. 9 points from those games should see Port finish in the top half, but the question is, is the desire still there?

And what of the team selection? Surely, with the club now safe, it’s time to start planning ahead for next season and start giving the younger players some game time? Rattanai is fit again, so let’s see him, rather than the somewhat shaky Worawut, in goal. Yossawat is good enough for the Thai U23s, so he should be good enough to fill Port’s left-back slot for the rest of the season. Tatchanon is twiddling his thumbs at Chonburi, so get him back and let him claim that troublesome defensive midfield position.

Of course, it won’t happen. Port’s management seem to see young players like the rest of us see other people’s children, ie entertaining in very small doses but not something you want hanging around all the time. Hansson, Tatchanon & Pinyo, players one would’ve expected at the start of the season to get plenty of game time, have all either been released or loaned out, whilst Yossawat, after a couple of very encouraging performances, seems to have become the invisible man. Meanwhile, the creaking Tana is still stinking out the place on a regular basis with his classic miss-an-easy-chance-then-pretend-to-be-injured routine, a predictable comedy staple on a par with Norman Collier’s broken microphone or Eric Morecambe’s brown paper bag.

With five teams going down, the 2018 T1 season will be the toughest yet, and radical changes in the playing squad are needed if Port are even to survive, let alone thrive. The preparation for next year should be starting right now. I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but, like the wife of the aforementioned alcoholic, I live in hope, and will be in Zone B when the Swatcats come to town on 14 October.

 

Kick for Klong Toei – Charity Football Tournament

 

Sandpit regular Dave Barraclough does a lot of work for charity but doesn’t like to talk about it – so we’ll do it for him. On Sunday 22 October Dave is organising Kick for Khlong Toei, a charity 7-a-side football tournament at Polo Football Park in aid of the Duang Prateep Foundation.

You can find full details on the event Facebook page, but to summarise, there’s a limit of 8 teams, each team can have up to 12 players, and suggested donation is 6000BHT per team. The event kicks off at 11am, after which everyone will retire to the Sportsman who are laying on free food and discounted drinks as well as showing that evening’s Port vs Muangthong game, from which of course supporters are banned, on the big screen.

The event is being sponsored by The Sandpit, The Sportsman and Tineri, with more sponsors of course welcome. For more info, visit the Facebook page or click the image below. We hope to see you there.

 

 

 

And the Band Played On… True Devotion or Blind Faith? Air Force 2-1 Port FC (AET)

 

 

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

Michael Corleone – The Godfather, Part 3.

 

I think this was the feeling most of us had after the heroic and totally unexpected 5-2 victory at Pattaya, after a run of games that highlighted just how frustrating being a Port supporter can be. I don’t think any of us in the crowd at Pattaya had contemplated switching allegiances, but we may have been thinking there were more pleasant ways of spending an evening in the company of highly passionate Thais, than watching Port let us down again. After Pattaya, there was a reason to believe once more.

Now, seven days and two, totally contrasting but still abject defeats later, I feel like Basil Fawlty about to take a large branch to his maddeningly unreliable 1967 Austin 1100 Countryman. For the car, substitute Tana (99), who I would willingly give a damn good thrashing with a large Cedar, or indeed, the sorry lot of them. It wasn’t as if we played that badly in conditions entirely unconducive to decent football, but this was Classic Port, albeit far less palatable than a vintage Ferreira, Duque de Bragança.

I really do not wish to say too much about the match; it is too depressing and mirrors a wash, rinse, repeat cycle. I don’t know if there is a collective name for the recently referenced furry rodent, but a ‘repetition of groundhogs’ sounds just about apt. Furthermore, we have pulled the trigger so often we no longer have a foot left to shoot, apart perhaps, from Tana’s. I really am not the best observer either to report on a match played in a stadium where the far goal seems to be in the next province; at my recent, annual medical check-up, my response to the instruction, “Please say the letters on the board on the wall,” was, “What wall?”

 

Pictures finally confirm that Tana plays for the opposition

 

However, if you must know, the flow of the game was interrupted by a rain-sodden pitch, with the ball difficult to move through the surface water and rapidly accumulating mud. Air Force sensibly made better use of the wings, as airmen should, and that is the only pun you are going to get, as this defeat is no laughing matter.  As a result of the conditions, chances were few and far between and it was felt that it would need a defensive slip to decide the game. As it was, when our goal came, it was the result of a rare, slick move down the left, which ended up with Panpanpong (19) setting up Suarez (5) for a simple tap-in. And that, my dear friends, should have been it, especially if Josimar (30) had not delayed his shot when bursting into the box minutes later. Air Force had really produced no threat of note and all Port had to do was use their T1 know-how (cough, splutter) to outwit their strictly second tier opponents.

 

 

All was going swimmingly, as it were, until Worawut (36), who had had a decent game, was too slow off his line, as a cross from the left caught both him and Jetjinn (51) napping. Air Force winger Yodsak (32) made them pay for their indecision as he darted between the defender and the goalkeeper to slot home the simplest of equalizers. And all this, in the 95th and final minute of the game. Bad luck, some might say. Luck has nothing to do with it – it is just shockingly bad game management and we have seen it on endless re-run from Port. Some of the fans around me were berating the Blue Eagles’ players for their time-wasting tactics at the end of extra time but this is exactly what we should have been doing near the end of the 90, not to mention lofting every clearance into row Z or amongst the watching Air Force cadets who looked more like a flutter of settled butterflies than blue eagles. They did a pretty mean Mexican wave though.

Extra-time, with Air Force rejuvenated, saw Port’s goal leading a charmed life, only protected by Worawut producing a thrilling Gordon Banks’ moment (Mexico 1970, for you juveniles) to keep Port in the game. At times Port’s defending was shambolic, with even Rochela (22) being caught in possession in the box before passing it to the nearest opponent.

Then, in the 109th minute, with Port recklessly committed to attack, Air Force broke free; Port were outnumbered at the back and despite further heroics from Worawut or the Post, insult was added to injury by Kayne Vincent (11) scuffing home what would turn out to be the winner. To be fair, Port launched a concentrated assault on the Eagles’ goal in the dying minutes only for Tana, Todsapol (6) and others to find only the goal-keeper’s flailing arms from point blank range; Tana, as usual, feigning injury to somehow excuse his miss. [Ed – Replays suggest he actually took a stray boot to the goolies. After missing, of course…] I can see the point of a left-handed screwdriver but what is the point of Tana?

Which brings me on to the main point in my piece, as suggested in the banner heading. As you may know from my previous articles, I am pretty loyal to Port and will stay loyal, but how much of this shit should we, all fans, put up with before showing some kind of displeasure? I didn’t stay after the game; I was very angry and had no desire to linger on and pay tribute to a team that should have been crawling on it’s hands and knees to the long-suffering crowd amassed behind the goal (and it’s a long way) to beg forgiveness, preferably with their faces plastered in mud to heighten their sense of subjugation.

I have followed Port now for over seven years and have the utmost respect for the loyalty and passion of their wonderful fans; they are to me the best in the country. But, sometimes lads, be a bit more critical. You deserve better than this. When you are in full war-drum mode, I often wonder whether you actually see some of the dross being played out in your name? On Sunday, just as on Wednesday, when your players surrendered meekly to, okay, a very good Bangkok Utd side, you were badly let down. The players need to know this. Don’t stand and applaud, don’t sing to them, tell them in no uncertain terms it is simply not good enough. And then come back and hope it will be better next time, just as I will.

Have a good day y’all.

 

Man of the Match

Worawut, because he was the only one I could recognize without a pair of binoculars. And he pulled off some decent saves.