Fencegate, Fetishes and Marauding Malagasy: Sukhothai FC 2-2 Port FC

 

 

Two of the surprise packages of the T1 League season met at the picturesque, lakeside Thung Thalay Luang Stadium on Saturday for a game that turned out to be anything but placid, especially on the terraces. Port, still smarting from a dismal first half away display at Bangkok Glass knew that they would have to dredge up all of their reservoirs of strength and shore up the defence if they were to navigate their way out of this one.

The first half demonstrated just why these two teams have started so well. Both played pacey, incisive, neat football with the Fire Bats looking to release 6 goal Salvadorian striker Bonilla, while Port were relying heavily on Nurul (31) and Pakorn (7) setting up the chances for Boskovic (23) to use his superior height and power against the Bats’ classy captain Yuttapong, who spent most of the game with his head heavily bandaged after a nasty collision following a corner. Whether Bosko was the culprit was difficult to tell. It was unlikely to be Nurul.

With Bonilla generally well shackled by Rochela (22) and Aithbodee (35), it was left to the diminutive Madagascar international John Baggio to torment the Port defence with his trickery and pace, ably supported by fellow Malagasy, Njiva Rakotoharimalala (try getting that on the back of your shirt). As early as the 8th minute, Baggio whipped a left foot shot narrowly wide of the post, while Boskovic had the ball whipped off his feet at the other end just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Then, just before half-time, it all kicked off. The ball had gone out for a Port throw and was retrieved by a Firebat player who was reluctant to hand it over to Kim, who was equally keen to get the game going. Kim tried to wrestle the ball from his opponent, with what seemed like minimum force, but it was enough for virtually the entire white-shirted Sukothai bench to surround Kim in what can only be describe as an aggressive manner. The nearest Port players came to Kim’s rescue, quickly followed by a few home players intent on rescuing the coaches. It was vaguely reminiscent of the fall-out from a drunken stag party picking a fight with a motor-cycle taxi driver. Calm was eventually restored and at least two Sukothai coaches were banished to the stand. All spiffing fun really.

(Editor’s note: a combination of beer & distance have led to Hockers’ confused view of the incident. Actually it was Sukhothai’s head coach who came on the pitch to angrily hit the ball with his hand, at which point Kim quite reasonably pushed him out of the way so he could get on with the game, at which point it all went off, and the Sukhothai coach was quite rightly sent to the stand…)

However, up in the away end, this was all a bit too much for some of the watching Sandpit contingent, who looked for the nearest defenceless object on which to vent their spleen, which, oddly enough, was actually a fence, one of two separating Port fans from the ‘enemy’. One fan who shall remain nameless, no doubt testing to see if it was made of real Sheffield steel, was the first to give it a rattle; the Brit, followed, as always in a battle, by an American who had to go one better with a more vigorous shake, just to prove once again that although we may start things, they will saunter in when it is nearly all over to claim victory. This commotion did not go unnoticed by the Sukothai supporters sitting next door and an ugly confrontation was only averted by the swift action of the Port mediators and security guards. All a storm in a teacup really but it was to have a severe impact on what was unfolding on the pitch at the time.

Inexplicably, while we were distracted by all this wire-mesh excitement, Sukothai had somehow worked the ball from our bust-up throw-in to a threatening position to the left of our box. Whether the Port defenders were distracted by what was going in the stands behind remains to be seen but it clearly upset Rochela enough to see his clearance ricochet off Bonilla into the path of the one player we did not want anywhere near the ball at this stage, Baggio. The next few seconds seem to take place in slow-motion, with an extended Nooooooooo! screaming inside your head as Baggio prepared to pull the trigger. 1-0. Minutes later, another thrilling run by Baggio finished with a lofted pass to Bonilla who fired over. At the other end, Siwakorn (16) should have done better with a header on the edge of the six-yard box or taken the better option of control and shoot. Possibly the most exciting 5 minutes, for all sorts of reasons, of the season!

An analysis of the exciting action was conducted over yet more beers at half-time and somebody also brought up the football.

Njiva went close for the Fire Bats early in the second half before, on 59 minutes, a mistimed headed back-pass in the Sukothai box was chased down by Boskovic on the touchline, to flick back to Suarez (5), who turned it in past the flailing keeper – an excellent opportunistic goal which inspired a flurry of Port action, culminating, ten minutes later, in one of the most bizarre but quite thrilling goals you will ever see and will need a whole paragraph to itself.

 

At last! Bosk doubles his tally for the season – Nurul shows his, er, appreciation

Nurul, cutting in from the left, hits a fairly harmless, speculative shot, which the keeper spills at the feet of Boskovic, who works the ball free for a shot. In quick succession, shots or headers from Suarez (3 times), Nurul and Boskovic are blocked, cleared off the line or hit the bar, before Boskovic finally lashes home. It was reminiscent of those mass games in the school playground when both teams are kicking into the same goal. The Port fans go wild but the fence remains intact.

Two minutes later Fire Bat Ekkasit was sent off for a wild kick at Kevin and Port seemed to have all the omens in their favour for a famed away win. This illusion was to last 5 minutes; Bonilla ghosting past a static Nitipong (34), no doubt overly keen not to give away yet another penalty, and passing to Njiva whose shot was in turn palmed by Worawut (36) straight to Baggio, who gleefully volleyed it home. The home crowd roared, the away crowd wailed, and the fence cowered.

There was still time for Siwakorn to miss another sitter, blasting over from inside the box with Boskovic better placed. He really does need to stay behind after school for some shooting practice.

All in all, it was a cracking day out. An action-packed match played in a proper football stadium, friendly home fans, in spite of the fence rattling, a fantastic atmosphere, enriched by the impressive Port contingent, and probably a fair result.

The evening was spent in convivial chat, covering such topics as travel stories about navigating the Pacific Rim; cooking tips on the best way to stuff a chicken, and creative ways of using a straw, although some were a bit hard to swallow. Keith, Phil and Mike shared pictures of their pets on the way home and a bloody good time was had by all! Away Days – you can’t beat ‘em. Thanks to all of you for your company.

Port remain in third place, level on points with Sukothai, just three points behind perennial leaders Buriram. Prachuap Khiri Khan and Nakhon Ratchasima make up a rather unusual top 5. Next up for Port are Air Force and Police Tero, games that should consolidate our position before a difficult run of three top 6 challengers.

Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

The consensus was Suarez, scoring again and coordinating the line well. Pity he hadn’t still been on the pitch to take the late chance that fell to Siwakorn.

 

Peter Hockley

Peter Hockley

Peter 'Hockers' Hockley is currently the School Librarian at St Andrews International School, Sathorn and has lived in Thailand since 1992. He has followed Port home and away since 2010, with unbridled devotion and his famous woolly hat. He is a co-founder member of the Sivakorn (is a football genius) Appreciation Society (SAS). At present, the Society boasts a membership of, well, two. Peter has written travel articles for The Nation and Sawaddi magazine, and once had a letter published in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly which won him 5 guineas.

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