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.
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.