What should have been a laid-back pre-season friendly ended up being a hard-fought 5-goal thriller involving a mass brawl following a spat centred around Sergio Suarez. Port ended up coming out on the wrong side of the 3-2 scoreline, but with some more clinical finishing the result could easily have gone the other way.
Jadet went with something pretty close to his first XI, with the two eyebrow-raisers being that Suarez (5) was preferred to Nebihi (18) and Bodin (15) to Pakorn (7). The first half, while it lasted, was a pretty even affair, with both sides having a few attacks and winning a penalty each, although we weren’t convinced entirely by either of them. Suwon were first up, as their left-winger ghosted past Nitipong, who the referee adjudged to have pushed his opponent in the back. From what we saw the Korean tripped over the ball, but Nitipong (34) – who regardless of whether or not he committed the foul was completely caught out by his opponent – may well have helped him on his way down. Suwon’s resident Brazilian hit the top corner, with Worawut (36) going the wrong way.
Then it was Port’s turn up the other end, with Boskovic (10) being sent through down the middle. The Montenegrin, who had largely been starved of service up to that point, looked to have delayed his shot too long, although his blushes were saved when a sliding challenge came in from his right, and he took a tumble which convinced the referee enough to point to the spot. From our angle it looked like a questionable decision, but we can’t say we’re not happy to have a forward with enough about him to win the penalty if he’s not going to score the goal. Boskovic handed the ball to captain Rochela (22), who still seems to be on spot-kick duty despite the arrival of his record-scoring teammate, and El Capitan dispatched it in to the top right corner with the usual ease.
What was a pretty low-key affair was about to turn very ugly indeed, though, and the man at the centre of the big first-half controversy was Sergio Suarez, who may well have bought his own ticket away from Khlong Toei with the way he reacted to a bit of handbags from an opposition player. Suarez came in with a late challenge which sent both players to the turf, then the Korean player appeared to throw a little slap in his direction. Suarez got up quicker than he ever has done in his Port career and proceeded to kick out at his opponent. Now, I’m not talking a Beckham-versus-Argentina little flick of the foot here but a full on studs-first attack designed to hurt his opponent. In an instant at least 3 Koreans were aiming myriad martial arts kicks at Suarez, who was forced in to a hasty retreat. Within seconds there were dozens of people on the pitch, with a fair few players pushing, shoving and having to be restrained by teammates and staff on both sides. Dolah (4) was summoned from the bench to remove Suarez, who was sat down and given what looked to be a pretty stern talking to by Madame Pang. Reports that Nebihi was seen grinning like a Cheshire cat are unconfirmed but almost certainly accurate!
Eventually, with Rochela, Kim (39) and Nitipong mediating on the Port side, peace was restored and incredibly the referee agreed not to send anyone off, but presumably insisted that both sides sub-off all of the offenders in a bid to restore sanity. Suarez, Todsapol (6) and Bodin went off for Port, but it was a long time before replacements Nebihi, Dolah and Pakorn saw any action. The first half was stopped, despite there having been about 30 minutes played, and there was a longer-than usual half-time break for all of the players to regain their composure. It seemed for a moment as if the Koreans weren’t going to be returning for the second period, with all their equipment disappearing from the side of the pitch, and the whole squad in the dressing room. Eventually they did reemerge to play the second period though, and within just a couple of minutes were back in the lead.
The move came down Port’s left, with a Suwon attacker getting the wrong side of his marker to head his team back in to the lead. Port tried to get back in to the game, with Pakorn and Dolah combining a couple of times from set-pieces to threaten the Korean goal, but despite the Thai-Swede’s significant height advantage he couldn’t find the target with his headers. There was also a moment of interest for fans of Delap-era Stoke City, with Kim (39) unveiling a very useful-looking long throw, although his teammates were not best positioned to take advantage of it. Now, I’ve never really seen a Thai team set up to try and attack a long throw, so Port may be best served letting Kim take a training session himself and teach his teammates how to wreak havoc in the opposition box with these deliveries. Port could well have a dangerous attacking weapon on their hands that few opponents will be prepared to defend against if they play their cards right.
Suwon had a few useful attacking ideas of their own, too, and just a few minutes after scoring their second they got a third. The attack once again came down Port’s left, which most Port fans will be used to with Panpanpong (19) ‘defending’ that side of the pitch. He was soon replaced, with Jetjinn (51) once again being preferred to Yossawat (28) as back-up in that position.
With the Koreans perhaps content with their two goal lead, though, Port really ratcheted up the pressure, and it was Nebihi who was at the heart of most of it. The ungainly German almost always seems to be about to lose the ball, before one of his long legs flicks it around a defender. At times he was embarrassing his opponents, with a superb piece of exhibition skill featuring a couple of cheeky nutmegs down the right between him, Pakorn and Nitipong drawing numerous cheers from the rowdy foreigners in Zone C.
The other star performer was Kim who, aside from his long throws, also impressed with his long passing. On a few occasions, searching passes from deep were aimed either forward at Boskovic, whose movement was excellent throughout, or wide to Pakorn, whose control and crossing was of the standard we’ve come to expect from The Midfield Monk. If Boskovic had been able to convert a one-on-one chance against the keeper, where the bounce of the ball seemed to foil him, or a simple volleyed chance from a Pakorn cross, then Port would have been victorious. He did get on to the score sheet late on, though, as Port were awarded the least controversial penalty of the night for a clear handball. This time, Boskovic stepped up to take the spot-kick, and rolled the ball home impudently, sending the ‘keeper helplessly in the wrong direction.
The final incident of note came from a freekick which Port were awarded just on the edge of the area in the dying seconds of the game. Boskovic, having just converted the penalty, was determined to take it, but Pakorn isn’t used to being challenged in this sort of position. Nevertheless, the fire-breathing Dragan got his point across and was allowed to take responsibility. His effort looked in for a second, but some combination of the gigantic Korean ‘keeper and the crossbar kept it out, denying Port a draw, which after the amount of chances they created in the last 20 or so minutes, was the least they deserved.
So, what did we learn today? Pre-game, Suarez had earned the right to start ahead of Nebihi, but quickly shot himself in the foot with his karate kid antics. If Nebihi was behind Suarez for the final foreign player spot, he has most certainly moved ahead of him with another superb 45 minute performance. Port are very dangerous going forward, but the defensive frailties are far from a thing of the past.
Port FC Man of the Match
Nebihi may have impressed again, but my Man of the Match this time was Kim in central midfield. We haven’t seen vision and passing as good as Kim’s at PAT Stadium for quite a while, and that long throw could come in handy, too.