Port exited the pre-season Leo Cup in the first round, as Chiang Rai showed more composure at the death to win 5-3 on penalties. In a match that you could have been forgiven for thinking would be a battle between two of the top strikers in Thai football – last season’s top scorer Boskovic and all-time top scorer Cleiton – neither side could break the deadlock, despite Port having the better of the action for most of the game. As there weren’t a great many incidents of note, I won’t bother with a blow-by-blow account of the action but rather give my impressions on some of Port’s key men.
Suarez or Nebihi?
Jadet went for a curious line-up in the first half, picking four foreigners who will not be allowed to play together in T1 next season. Rochela (22) and Boskovic (10) are of course nailed on certainties to be in the T1 squad next season, but only one of Nebihi (14) and Suarez (5) will be joining them. Jadet picked both – presumably to see which one would stake the stronger claim – and Nebihi responded just the way his manager would have hoped for. A natural number 10 if there ever was one, Nebihi was gliding past defenders at will, his long strides and robust frame presenting a problem the Chiang Rai defence could only really answer by fouling him. Whilst his final ball looked a little rusty – as did pretty much everyone’s – he did as much as Port fans could have hoped for to suggest that he will be an important addition to Port’s attacking arsenal. Suarez also looked lively, putting in a lot of strong challenges and showing some fancy footwork, but it was clear that his impact on the game was not as marked as that of Nebihi.
Boskovic didn’t have the debut he will have been hoping for, but there was really very little in the way of service for him to dig his teeth in to. Given a few more games to get his scoring touch back, Boskovic will find that extra yard and hone that first touch to hopefully become the deadly force he was in 2017. Fellow new signing Arthit Butjinda (29) similarly had very little to play with up front after he replaced the Montenegrin. He converted his penalty in the shoot-out with minimum fuss.
So that’s what a proper defensive midfielder looks like. Kim (8) was a rock in the centre of the park, showing spot-on positioning, quality passing and communicating well with his teammates. Not only does he look technically very sound, he also looks to be a natural leader, something which Port’s midfield has been severely lacking for the last few seasons. Going by the early evidence, Kim should be one of the very first names on Jadet’s team-sheet.
Siwakorn Spills Leo Cup
Not one of his finer afternoons. Siwakorn (16) was comfortably out-shone by both Suarez and Kim, got in to a scrap with an opposition player and then stepped up to take a penalty which more or less everyone except him thought he was going to miss. It’s going to be an interesting year for the man who is so highly thought of by his teammates. With Kim looking like a dominant, reliable defensive presence and Nebihi looking like the creative fulcrum of the team, Siwakorn has to carve himself out a role. Will he flourish alongside more accomplished teammates in the coming season, or struggle to justify his place in the team? It’s time to show that you belong at a top-5 club, Siv!
Port started with Pakorn (7) on the right and Nurul (31) on the left. Pakorn did as Pakorn does, delivering some dangerous balls, and shooting at every conceivable opportunity. Nurul looked very lively, but his touch deserted him a few times in promising positions, and he picked up a silly yellow card for a Siwakornesque shirt-pull. Expect much, much better from Nurul in coming friendlies.
In the second half, new Indonesian dynamo Terens (27) replaced Pakorn on the right, and Bodin replaced Nurul on the left. Bodin (15) played a part in some promising breaks, but was a little slow to release the pass at times. Terens had one chance to stretch his little legs, and gave Port fans an exciting glimpse of his frankly ridiculous pace. He should be a regular feature off the bench in 2018.
Not much to report here, and that is probably a good thing. Nitipong (34) looked as tough and energetic as ever, Rochela and Todsapol (6) were pretty solid despite a couple of lapses of concentration which went un-punished, and Panpanpong (19) was… well, Panpanpong. There was the usual wondering forward and leaving space behind, which may well be a very bad idea indeed in 2018. With either Nurul or Pakorn likely to be on the left wing, Panpanpong must understand that he can’t afford to leave 5 foot 4 Nurul or own-goal maestro Pakorn to do his dirty work for him. Surprisingly, Jadet replaced Panpanpong with Jetjinn (11) rather than Yossawat (28) in the second half. We don’t know what Yossawat has done to deserve being consistently overlooked, but his treatment by management is beginning to remind me an awful lot of Tatchanon last season. Jetjinn’s most notable contribution was an absolutely abominable freekick which flew a good couple of meters above everyone’s head and out of play.
The Penalty Takers
1) Rochela. The only surprise was that he put it in the bottom left rather than the bottom right.
2) Suarez. His second cheeky penalty in as many games. Went for the Panenka and dispatched it with aplomb.
3) Arthit. Sent the ‘keeper the wrong way, so the fact that he didn’t find the corner didn’t matter.
4) Siwakorn. Hands up if you thought Siwakorn was going to miss. Yep, me too. Next time let players who can actually shoot do the shooting, eh Siv?
5) Kim. You don’t need to be able to speak Korean to understand an extremely confident nod when asked if you’re going to take a penalty, and number 5 to indicate that you’re fine with a bit of pressure. Unfortunately his penalty was not required, with Victor dispatching Chiang Rai’s decisive spot-kick to end the tie.
Port FC Man of the Match
He may have only played half the game, but what a half it was. Nebihi will add strength, height, guile and no little amount of skill to Port’s forward line in 2018. Honourable mentions go to Kim, who didn’t put a foot wrong in defensive midfield, and Nitipong who looks like he’s spent his holiday training even harder than usual.